Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Violence Against Women


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights


Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 26

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The list that follows is courtesy of UNFPA, downloaded from, 4 Feb. 2007.

Millennium Declaration, 2000

25. To combat all forms of violence against women and to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

World Summit for Social Development +5

Commitment 4 Para 61. Ensure continued and intensified action to combat all forms of gender-based violence, and recognize that violence against women, whether in private or public life, both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Beijing [i.e., Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing] +5

14. Obstacles. Women continue to be victims of various forms of violence. Inadequate understanding of the root causes of all forms of violence against women and girls hinders efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls. There is a lack of comprehensive programmes dealing with the perpetrators, including programmes, where appropriate, which would enable them to solve problems without violence. Inadequate data on violence further impedes informed policy-making and analysis. Sociocultural attitudes which are discriminatory and economic inequalities reinforce women’s subordinate place in society. This makes women and girls vulnerable to many forms of violence, such as physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation. In many countries, a coordinated multidisciplinary approach to responding to violence which includes the health system, workplaces, the media, the education system, as well as the justice system, is still limited. Domestic violence, including sexual violence in marriage, is still treated as a private matter in some countries. Insufficient awareness of the consequences of domestic violence, how to prevent it and the rights of victims still exists. Although improving, the legal and legislative measures, especially in the criminal justice area, to eliminate different forms of violence against women and children, including domestic violence and child pornography, are weak in many countries. Prevention strategies also remain fragmented and reactive and there is a lack of programmes on these issues…

69. (a) As a matter of priority, review and revise legislation, were appropriate, with a view to introducing effective legislation, including on violence against women, and take other necessary measures to ensure that all women and girls are protected against all forms of physical, psychological and sexual violence, and are provided recourse to justice;

(b) Prosecute the perpetrators of all forms of violence against women and girls and sentence them appropriately, and introduce actions aimed at helping and motivating perpetrators to break the cycle of violence and take measures to provide avenues for redress to victims;

(c) Treat all forms of violence against women and girls of all ages as a criminal offence punishable by law, including violence based on all forms of discrimination;

(d) Establish legislation and/or strengthen appropriate mechanisms to handle criminal matters relating to all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape and sexual abuse of women and girls, and ensure that such cases are brought to justice swiftly;

Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995

Para 99. Sexual and gender-based violence, including physical and psychological abuse, trafficking in women and girls, and other forms of abuse and sexual exploitation place girls and women at high risk of physical and mental trauma, disease and unwanted pregnancy. Such situations often deter women from using health and other services.

112. Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women is a matter of concern to all States and should be addressed. Knowledge about its causes and consequences, as well as its incidence and measures to combat it, have been greatly expanded since the Nairobi Conference. In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women.

113. The term "violence against women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Accordingly, violence against women encompasses but is not limited to the following:

(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;

(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;

(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.

118. Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement. Violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from cultural patterns, in particular the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and all acts of extremism linked to race, sex, language or religion that perpetuate the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace, the community and society. Violence against women is exacerbated by social pressures, notably the shame of denouncing certain acts that have been perpetrated against women; women's lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; the lack of laws that effectively prohibit violence against women; failure to reform existing laws; inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness of and enforce existing laws; and the absence of educational and other means to address the causes and consequences of violence. Images in the media of violence against women, in particular those that depict rape or sexual slavery as well as the use of women and girls as sex objects, including pornography, are factors contributing to the continued prevalence of such violence, adversely influencing the community at large, in particular children and young people.

ICPD [i.e., International Conference on Population and Development] + 5

48. Governments should give priority to developing programmes and policies that foster norms and attitudes of zero tolerance for harmful and discriminatory attitudes, including son preference, which can result in harmful and unethical practices such as prenatal sex selection, discrimination and violence against the girl child and all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation, rape, incest, trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation. This entails developing an integrated approach that addresses the need for widespread social, cultural and economic change, in addition to legal reforms.

World Summit for Social Development, 1995

Commitment 5 (h) Take effective measures, including through the enactment and enforcement of laws, and implement policies to combat and eliminate all forms of discrimination, exploitation, abuse and violence against women and girl children, in accordance with relevant international instruments and declarations;

International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, Cairo, 1994

4.9 Countries should take full measures to eliminate all forms of exploitation, abuse, harassment and violence against women, adolescents and children. This implies both preventive actions and rehabilitation of victims. Countries should prohibit degrading practices, such as trafficking in women, adolescents and children and exploitation through prostitution, and pay special attention to protecting the rights and safety of those who suffer from these crimes and those in potentially exploitable situations, such as migrant women, women in domestic service and schoolgirls. In this regard, international safeguards and mechanisms for cooperation should be put in place to ensure that these measures are implemented.

7.39 Active and open discussion of the need to protect women, youth and children from any abuse, including sexual abuse, exploitation, trafficking and violence, must be encouraged and supported by educational programmes at both national and community levels. Governments should set the necessary conditions and procedures to encourage victims to report violations of their rights. Laws addressing those concerns should be enacted where they do not exist, made explicit, strengthened and enforced, and appropriate rehabilitation services provided.

World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993

18. … Gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated. This can be achieved by legal measures and through national action and international cooperation in such fields as economic and social development, education, safe maternity and health care, and social support…

38. In particular, the World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life…


Amnesty International, Turkey: Women confronting family violence, 2 June 2004.

Defining violence against women

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life" (paragraph 1). Recent interpretations of this definition also include "the withholding of economic necessities from the victim".

According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,gender-based violence against women is violence "directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately".

In its preamble, the Declaration describes violence against women as "a manifestation of historically unequal power relationships between men and women" and as one of the "crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men".


"Violence against Women: Do the Governments Care? NGO Facts Sheets on the State Response," Stop Violence Against Women. A project by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.

The VAW Monitoring Program of the Open Society Institute invited the 24 National VAW Monitors of StopVAW (NGOs working in the field of violence against women) to map the situation in their countries on violence against women, with special regard to the state response to it. For the resulting reports, see here .

UNHCR chief condemns culture of neglect and denial about violence against women, WomenWatch, 24 Nov. 2006.

GENEVA, November 24 (UNHCR) – UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Friday said there was a "massive" culture of neglect and denial about violence against women.

"That culture of neglect and denial exists everywhere," Guterres told staff of the refugee agency during a ceremony to launch the annual 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

"I think we need to face this," the High Commissioner said, adding that sexual and gender-based violence against women was a global problem. He cited a report he had read earlier this year showing that a high percentage of girls in Geneva high schools had suffered sexually motivated violence.

Guterres said if the problem was bad in an advanced country like Switzerland, it would be much worse in societies with huge social problems and difficulties, adding that: "Refugee populations are in the front line of those difficulties."

The High Commissioner said there also needed to be more equality between men and women. "The key question, at the level of the UN system, at the level of an organisation, at the level of the refugee camp, is the empowerment of women, and that must be one of the central objectives of a modern, democratic system and a tolerant society."

Male staff and guests at Friday's ceremony wore white ribbons to symbolise support for establishing a world in which women and girls can live in peace and dignity. Wearing a white ribbon is a personal pledge never to commit, condone nor remain silent about violence against women.

The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991. This year's theme is "Celebrate 16 years of 16 days: Advance human rights and end violence against women"

UNHCR offices around the world are marking the 16 Days of Activism with activities and awareness-raising programmes. These are being organized in partnership with refugee communities, civil society, non-governmental organisations, governments and other UN agencies.

In Geneva, an exhibition opened Friday in the UNHCR headquarters of pictures by refugee boys and girls in Tanzania and Nepal reflecting their thoughts – and in some cases, experiences – on sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse.

In Liberia, where violence against women is a major problem, UNHCR is taking part in nationwide campaigns, workshops and community outreach programmes to inform women about their rights and to encourage men to change their ways.

UNHCR has also been involved in television campaigns to publicise the campaign in places like Croatia and Argentina. A minute-long spot by award-winning Croatian director, Ivona Juka, will be shown in the Croatian parliament next week.

Prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence is one of UNHCR's Global Performance targets for 2007. Last month, the agency's Executive Committee adopted a Conclusion on Women and Girls at Risk, which calls upon states, partners and UNHCR to identify and find solutions for those most at risk and to renew efforts to create secure protection environments. The agency is also working to increase participation by male staff in efforts to achieve gender equality and end gender-based violence.

Edith M. Lederer, ”United Nations - Women Under Attack in Iraq, Afghanistan : U.N. Official: Women Face Increasing Violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia,”, 27 Oct. 2006.

UNITED NATIONS Oct 27, 2006 (AP)— Women are facing increasing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, especially when they speak out publicly to defend women's rights, a senior U.N. official told the U.N. Security Council.

Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, called on [sic] for fresh efforts to ensure the safety of women in countries emerging from conflicts, to provide them with jobs, and ensure that they receive justice, including compensation for rape.

"What UNIFEM is seeing on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia is that public space for women in these situations is shrinking," Heyzer said Thursday. "Women are becoming assassination targets when they dare defend women's rights in public decision-making."

Heyzer spoke at a daylong open council meeting on implementation of a 2000 resolution that called for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of striking and building on peace deals. It also called for the prosecution of crimes against women and increased protection of women and girls during war.

Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said that, in the past year, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman head of state in Africa, Liberia adopted an anti-rape law, women in Sierra Leone pushed for laws on human trafficking, inheritance and property rights and women in East Timor submitted a draft domestic violence bill to parliament.

Despite these positive developments, he said, women face widespread insecurity and in many societies violence is still used as a tool to control and regulate the actions of women and girls seeking to rebuild their homes and communities.

"In Afghanistan, attacks on school establishments put the lives of girls at risk when they attempt to exercise their basic rights to education," Guehenno said. "Women and girls are raped when they go out to fetch firewood in Darfur. In Liberia, over 40 percent of women and girls surveyed have been victims of sexual violence. In the eastern Congo, over 12,000 rapes of women and girls have been reported in the last six months alone."

Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the U.N. special adviser on women's issues, said that from Congo and Sudan to Somalia and East Timor, she said, "women continue to be exposed to violence or targeted by parties to the conflict … lacking the basic means of survival and health care."

At the same time, Mayanja said, they remain "underrepresented in decision-making, particularly on war and peace issues."

Assistant Secretary-General Carolyn McAskie, who is in charge of supporting the new U.N. Peacebuilding Commission which was established this year to help countries emerging from conflict, said her office will try to ensure that "space is created for women's active participation in political, economic and social life."

"We cannot ignore the voices of the women from the time we broker peace onwards," McAskie said. "Peacemaking is not just an exercise involving combatants, it must involve all of society, and that means women."

At the end of the meeting, the council said it "remains deeply concerned by the pervasiveness of all forms of violence against women in armed conflicts." and reiterated its strong condemnation of all acts of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeeping personnel.

Allegations of sexual abuse have also been reported in peacekeeping missions in Congo, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, East Timor and West Africa.

In-depth study on all forms of violence against women. Report of the Secretary-General, United Nations, 61st Session, Item 60 pf the preliminary List, 6 July 2006.

I. Introduction

1. Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality. Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in times of conflict. The Secretary-General has stated that as long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.

2. States have an obligation to protect women from violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to provide justice and remedies to victims. Eliminating violence against women remains one of the most serious challenges of our time. The knowledge base and tools to prevent and eliminate violence against women developed over the past decade must be utilized more systematically and effectively to put a stop to all violence against women. This requires clear political will, outspoken, visible and unwavering commitment at the highest levels of leadership of the State and the resolve, advocacy and practical action of individuals and communities.

Grave problem of violence against women in Greece, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zambia,” Human Rights Education Associates,, 5 Feb. 2003.

Violence against women and girls persists around the world on a daily basis. Women frequently experience physical and psychological violence at the hands of State agents as well as within the domestic sphere by their own family members. Although States are obligated under international law to prevent, investigate and punish all forms of violence against women, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a public or private figure, States rarely fulfil this duty adequately.

The four latest reports published by OMCT [World Organization against Torture] examine the grave problem of violence against women in Greece, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zambia. Despite the fact that these four countries are located in vastly different regions of the world, with different cultural attitudes and varying levels of development, there are commonalities between these four nations with respect to violence against women. Violence against women is a phenomenon that transcends region, culture, and economic development.

For example, not one of these countries has enacted specific legislation addressing domestic violence, a basic human rights violation. Although women may be able to prosecute their husbands or boyfriends for assault under the various laws of these countries, these laws do not recognize the particular difficulties faced by women victims of domestic violence, such as familial and societal pressure not to press charges or the immediate need for protection through restraining orders, shelters, and other such mechanisms. Furthermore, specific legislation on domestic violence would ideally provide for gender sensitivity training for law enforcement and judicial personnel to recognize the particular position of victims of domestic violence. Without specific laws concerning violence in home, women will not likely press charges, or if they do choose to press charges initially, they will likely withdraw their complaint due to pressure from the family and surrounding community, as well as inadequacy of police and judicial officers to effectively address the issue of domestic violence. Specific legislation on domestic violence is an essential first step to successfully combating domestic violence.

General recommendation 19 of CEDAW calls on States Parties to enact specific domestic violence legislation as soon as possible and during its sessions, CEDAW appropriately recognized each of these countries failure to follow through with this general recommendation. For all four States, prevention, investigation and punishment of domestic violence remain principal areas of concern to be taken up again when they are next examined at CEDAW.

OMCT also expressed concern at reports of violence against women perpetrated by State agents in all four countries, particularly violence against women in detention or under arrest. State agents use sexual violence, including rape, and sexual harassment to exert power over women. Often, these State agents enjoy impunity while the women suffer in silence, afraid to come forward with a complaint.

”UNICEF Executive Director targets violence against women,” Information Newsline, 7 March 2000.

Tuesday, 7 March 2000: In a statement marking International Women's Day, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy issued a strong attack against culturally-sanctioned homicidal violence directed at women and girls around the world. She said 'honour' killings, acid violence, female infanticide and bride burning are examples of men and boys killing or seriously injuring female family and community members with impunity.

Ms. Bellamy said it is an outrage when those who commit such crimes are openly admired in their communities and are subjected to only token prosecution.

"For too long, some men have been getting away with murder," said the UNICEF Executive Director. "It is time for governments and local communities to acknowledge these actions as crimes and to act decisively to prevent the continuing murder and disfiguring of thousands of girls and women. Such crimes should be swiftly prosecuted."

Although these crimes are unacceptable to the public in virtually all countries, the practices persist, even where there are legal prohibitions, Ms. Bellamy said. She praised UNICEF-supported efforts by women's organisations campaigning against 'honour' killing, especially in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Pakistan.

UNICEF has also helped launch awareness programmes and organised sensitisation workshops on violence against women in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The agency's Bangladesh effort includes support for a foundation for survivors of acid attacks. In India UNICEF has supported NGO and government projects on bride burning and against the practice of dowry.

Ms. Bellamy said that 'honour' crimes are hardly confined to developing nations. "Under whatever name, such crimes are committed worldwide." she observed. "They occur whenever a man regards a woman as his property and seeks to uphold this false assumption by cruel and abusive force."

'Honour killing' is an ancient practice in which men kill female relatives in the name of family 'honour' for forced or suspected sexual activity outside marriage, even when they have been victims of rape.

Any number of reasons can lead to acid attacks. A delayed meal or rejection of a marriage proposal are offered as justification for a man to disfigure a woman with acid.

Female infanticide is the killing of a girl child within weeks of her birth. Bride burning is when husbands engineer an 'accident' (frequently the bursting of a kitchen stove) when they feel the obligatory marriage dower (gifts from in-laws) is not enough.

Currently available figures suggests the extent of these crimes against women and girls:

'Honour' Crimes: In 1997, some 300 women were estimated to have been killed in the name of 'honour' in one province of Pakistan alone. According to 1999 estimates, more than two-thirds of all murders in Gaza strip and West bank were most likely 'honour' killings. In Jordan there are an average of 23 such murders per year.

Thirty-six 'honour' crimes were reported in Lebanon between 1996 and 1998, mainly in small cities and villages. Reports indicate that offenders are often under 18 and that in their communities they are sometimes treated as heroes. In Yemen as many as 400 'honour' killings took place in 1997. In Egypt there were 52 reported 'honour' crimes in 1997.

Acid Attacks: In Bangladesh between 1996 and 1998 there was a four-fold increase in reported acid attacks from 47 to more than 200.

Dowry Deaths: In India, it is estimated that more than 5,000 women are killed each year because their in-laws consider their dowries inadequate. A tiny percentage of their murderers are brought to justice.

Female Infanticide: Infanticide has been practiced as a brutal method of family planning in societies where boy children are still valued, economically and socially, above girls. Anecdotal evidence suggests that outright infanticide, usually of newborn girls, takes place in some communities in Asia. Medical testing for sex selection, though officially outlawed, has become a booming business in China, India and the Republic of Korea.

Though no reliable infanticide statistics are available, there remain substantial disparities in gender population figures in these areas.

Ms. Bellamy said that these crimes, along with forced marriages, involuntary virginity tests, female genital mutilation, trafficking and forced prostitution, are egregious violations of girls' and women's rights, based on outmoded and unjust cultural norms.

She cited the call of United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on governments to recognize, and work to modify, inherited prejudices and customs which have made so-called 'honour' killings and acid attacks acceptable.


Pam O’Toole, “No 'real change' for Afghan women,” BBC News, 31 Oct. 2006.

An international women's rights group says guarantees given to Afghan women after the fall of the Taleban in 2001 have not translated into real change.

Womankind Worldwide says millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face systematic discrimination and violence in their households and communities.

The report admits that there have been some legal, civil and constitutional gains for Afghan women.

But serious challenges remain and need to be addressed urgently, it states.

These include challenges to women's safety, realisation of civil and political rights and status.


Womankind Worldwide sent a film crew to Afghanistan to investigate the situation of women there.

They found a young Afghan woman crying in hospital who said she wanted to die. She was recovering after setting fire to herself.

Womankind Worldwide says there has been a dramatic rise in cases of self-immolation by Afghan women since 2003.

It believes many are the result of forced marriages, thought to account for about 60% to 80% of all Afghan marriages.

57% of girls are married before the legal marriage age of 16.

Domestic violence remains widespread.

At an Afghan women's shelter, a young woman told the film crew that she came to the shelter to forget life's troubles.

"I come here so I can ease the pain a little. When I am at home sometimes I feel as though someone is choking me," she told the film crew.

Womankind Worldwide says the Afghan authorities rarely investigate women's complaints of violent attacks.

Women reporting rape run the risk of being imprisoned for having sexual intercourse outside marriage.

Unfulfilled promises

Although women now hold more than 25% of the seats in the Afghan parliament, female politicians and activists often face intimidation or even violence.

"Women who are standing up to defend women's' rights are not being protected," says Brita Fernandes Schmidt of Womankind Worldwide.

"My message, really, to the international community is: you need to address specific security issues for women," she says.

"Women's rights activists are getting killed, women's NGO workers are getting killed, and that is not going to change unless some drastic action is taken," Ms Fernandes continues.

Womankind Worldwide says the international community needs to fulfil promises made after the fall of the Taleban to help protect Afghan women.

It says the international community should give women a greater voice in setting the aid and reconstruction agenda.

Until basic rights are granted to Afghan women in practice as well as on paper, the report says, it could not be said that the status of Afghan women had changed significantly in the past five years.

For a systematic examination of violence against Afghani women and girls, see Amnesty International, Afghanistan: Women still under attack - a systematic failure to protect. 30 May 2005, at

Jane Armstrong, “Trembling in fear behind the burka,” Globe and Mail, 11 October 2006.

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- The letters are delivered in the night, dropped on the doorsteps of female Kandahar professionals. The anonymous missives warn the occupants that they will "bleed" if they don't stop working.

Other threats are more urgent. A female employee at a United Nations agency in Kandahar was warned by an unknown caller to leave Afghanistan within half an hour. More than half a dozen female government workers in the southern and western provinces have complained of death threats.

These are a few examples of the rising tide of violence against women in Afghanistan, especially in the south. Five years after the fall of the repressive Taliban regime, women -- in particular working women -- are increasingly being targeted by extremists.

"When I leave for work in the morning, I don't know if I will be coming home," one working woman lamented during a Monday-morning meeting at a women's resource centre in downtown Kandahar.

"I change my route every day," she continued. "I wear a different coloured burka. Everyone has fear."

The weekly meetings are a chance for female professionals to gather and vent about the current spate of violence against women in this troubled city.

The sessions are organized by Rangina Hamidi, the resource centre's director and head of Afghans for a Civil Society, a human-rights group.

Ms. Hamidi, 29, was raised and educated in the United States after her family fled Afghanistan in 1981. She was part of the wave of exiles who returned to rebuild after the Taliban fell.

Ms. Hamidi did not attend Monday's meeting because she was visiting her family in Virginia. She said her parents and friends are pleading with her to stay in North America.

She plans to return to Afghanistan, but predicted that educated women will once again flee. "I think the majority of the working class will leave the country," she wrote in an e-mail.

Last month's assassination of activist Safia Ama Jan, the director of women's affairs for the province of Kandahar, who was gunned down outside her house as she left for work, put a chill in the hearts of female professionals. It harkened back to the time when the Taliban were in power and women were routinely beaten, mutilated and killed for disobeying their restrictive edicts. The women now say the death threats are on the rise, but local police can do nothing to protect them.

At Monday's gathering, eight women sat around a table in a shabby board room, lamenting the rise in violence. They are educated, married women with families. Like nearly all Kandahar women, they wear burkas in public -- and remove the head-to-toe covering once inside their offices.

They are articulate and impassioned about deteriorating conditions for women. Throughout the two-hour session, their voices often rose in emotion and they frequently interrupted one another. But they are leery of giving a name to their voices.

None of the women agreed to be identified or have her face photographed.

"Sorry, but we are afraid," said a bespectacled middle-aged woman with a cream-coloured chiffon head veil. After Ms. Ama Jan's slaying, girls' attendance at Kandahar schools dropped off. Some women quit their jobs.

"They are staying at home," the woman said. "We have educated women who are sitting at home."

Some men have ordered their wives to stop working. "We're going backward again," she said.

Afghanistan women made significant strides after the ultra-conservative Taliban was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The country's new constitution has equality guarantees for women and girls, including the right to a public-school education. Twenty-five per cent of Afghanistan's members of parliament are women.

But the women at the Kandahar meeting say these rights exist only on paper. They have little faith in enforcement by Afghanistan's army and police force, which they say are poorly trained, with little aptitude for dealing with civilian complaints or protecting the public.

"People who are in the ANP and ANA, they are people who have been fighting for 30 years," said another woman who works at the Kandahar resource centre. "They only know how to fight and use weapons. They don't know how to keep the peace."

Not only are Kandahar's women struggling to recover from years of the Taliban's influence, they are also up against their own culture's centuries-old, conservative view of women, which, among other things, permits girls to marry as young as 7 or 8.

As if to illustrate this point, a woman arrives at the resource centre with her six-year-old son in tow, asking for help.

At 38, Shahla has been married nearly 30 years; she was 9 when she wed her already adult spouse. For the past 15 years, her husband, an unemployed labourer, has been a heroin addict. She earns some money cleaning houses but her husband steals it. Lately, he's been taking the couple's six-year-old son out to beg for money on Kandahar's dirty and dangerous streets.

But Shahla, who uses only one name, has no desire to leave him. It's rare -- even dangerous -- for a woman in Afghanistan to leave a spouse, even if he is abusive. Shahla is no exception. Her brothers have told her she can't live with them and her in-laws have said the same.

Shahla plans to stay with her husband but she needs money to keep her son off the street.

The resource centre offer women like Shahla jobs embroidering tablecloths, scarves and clothing. Their work is sold in shops and Ms. Hamidi's organization exports it abroad.

As the meeting wraps up, the women are asked what they think can be done to halt the violence against working women. None has an answer. But they say it helps to gather and talk about it.

"We don't feel so helpless," said one woman as she raised her beige burka over her head to leave.

“Kandahar Women's Affairs Head Assassinated,” IRIN News, 25 September 2006.

Safia Hama Jan, a leading women's rights advocate and outspoken critic of the Taliban, was killed in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar on Monday.

Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire at Hana Jan, provincial director of the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs in insurgency-hit Kandahar province, as she was leaving for work early on Monday, Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor confirmed, adding that she had died on the spot.

Local officials have launched an investigation into the incident, blaming the ongoing Taliban insurgency in the area for the attack.

"This is the work of the enemies of peace, democracy and development in the country," Ahmadi maintained.

The attack follows scores of others carried out by the Taliban who, though toppled by US-led coalition forces in 2001, are now waging an increasingly deadly insurgency in the war-battered nation. Hundreds have died this year alone.

On 10 September, Taliban militants killed the governor of southeastern Paktia province in a suicide bombing.

Commenting on Monday's attack, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) that oversees development in the post-Taliban country expressed outrage over what it described as a meaningless death.

"UNAMA is appalled at this senseless murder of a woman who was simply working to ensure that all Afghan women play a full and equal part in the future of Afghanistan," UNAMA spokesman Aleem Siddique said in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

"What we need to see in Afghanistan is peace, development and progress," Siddique stressed. "We share the sentiment of the majority of Afghan people who are appalled at this killing."

Hama Jan was an active supporter of women's rights and a very dedicated woman, said Abdul Quadar Noorzai, regional head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in Kandahar.

"Her death will have a serious impact on women's activities in the south where women are already suffering from various problems due to the deteriorating security and conservative traditions," Noorzai told IRIN.

Hama Jan had held the position of provincial women's affairs chief since Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs was established in 2002.

According to local media reports, Hama Jan's requests for secure official transport and personal bodyguards had not been granted by the government. At the time of the attack she was travelling in a taxi.

”Afghanistan: Despite threats to her life, government withdraws security for Joya,” Women in the Middle East, April and May 2006.

27 year old Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya is waging a battle against powerful forces trying to silence her. While on tour in the US, she has continued to receive threats from inside and outside the United States.

During a live Afghanistan Television call-in show, one caller openly threatened to kill her. Most recently in Fremont, California, more than a dozen men disrupted a speaking event and aggressively hurled verbal insults at her.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, warlords have stepped up their propaganda efforts to try to discredit Malalai. At the same time, the Afghan central government is reducing their contribution for her security in Afghanistan.

We are asking for your support to help restore her security by replacing the contribution recently withdrawn by the Afghan government.

Malalai Joya enjoys immense popularity throughout Afghanistan for being the only member of the Parliament who dares to criticize the warlords in public. As a result of her courageous stand, she routinely receives death threats by phone, mail, and in person. To date, she has survived 4 assassination attempts.

When Malalai Joya returns to Afghanistan at the end of March, she will not have adequate protection from the dangers she faces. She recently told a BBC reporter: "They will kill me but they will not kill my voice because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring."

“They will Kill Me but They will not Kill My Voice,” Asian Pacific Post, 9-22 February 2006.

Malalai Joya is one of the most popular members of Parliament in Afghanistan and has many a time taken stand against the ex-Mujahideen fighters who dominate the country’s new assembly.

But Joya and many of her supporters fear she will be assassinated.

As she describes what she believes is going to happen, it is with apparent fear and what sounds at times like a romantically conceived vision of martyrdom.

"They will kill me but they will not kill my voice," she says, "because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring."

The 27-year-old MP is the most famous woman in Afghanistan.

She has made her name as a woman’s rights activist who has attacked Afghanistan’s most powerful institution, the Mujahideen.

They are the fighters who defeated the Soviet invasion of the 1980s but who, in many cases, became leading participants in the destruction of the civil war that erupted in the 1990s.

Many of the leading MPs elected to the new parliament were factional commanders during the civil war period.

Some have also been implicated in human rights abuses.

But with their status underpinned by the religious justification of jihad against the Soviets, Joya’s public criticisms of the Mujahideen risk an extreme reaction from some.

On Dec 20, 2005, the day of the parliament’s first session in more than 30 years, she did what many of her friends feared she would.

Rising from her seat she launched into a denunciation of many of those seated around her, condemning the presence in the parliament of "criminal warlords" whose hands are stained with the "blood of the people."

Many MPs beat their fists on their desks and furiously shouted her down.

As she left the parliament, she received death threats.

"As her close friend we have tried several times to persuade Malalai to be less openly critical, but she says no she will not stop," said Toor Pekai, one of a number of female MPs who circle protectively around Joya in the parliament, reported the BBC.

Many of her enemies accuse her of membership of RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan).

It is a secretive feminist organisation founded in 1977 with Maoist roots by another female activist called Meena. She was killed in 1987 by unknown assassins.

Joya denies any involvement with RAWA.

"I am an independent," she said, "though RAWA support my views and I am grateful for that."

Privately, several of those who know her well say she is quite prepared for what she would see as her own martyrdom, and even talks of the need for martyrs to galvanise the cause of Afghan women.

In the course of the interview with BBC she mentioned Nadia Anjuman, an Afghan poetess killed in November 2005, and Amina of Badakhshan, a young woman reportedly stoned to death for having an extra-marital affair in April 2005.

The man implicated received one hundred lashes.

She is also inspired, she says, by her namesake Malalai of Maiwand - one of the greatest Afghan heroines, who ran onto the battlefield at Maiwand in 1880 and rallied the Afghan forces to defeat the British.

"Every democrat must be ready to die for truth and freedom," said Ms Joya.

"I am not better than any of the others, but I am young and energetic and the women of Afghanistan need me."

Other women MPs are too afraid to speak to her openly.

Many of Malalai’s supporters felt that the timing of her outburst, amid a first day atmosphere of good will, was ill-judged - offending even those MPs who might otherwise have sympathy for her views.

"The threat against her life is very real," said Pekai. "All the rumours in the parliament are that people are preparing to kill her."

Joya says that she continues to receive a constant stream of messages of support from ordinary Afghans.

"It gives me strength to keep telling the truth," she said.

Popular disquiet at the makeup of the new parliament is widespread.

A poll conducted by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in January 2005 found that 90% of Afghans wanted human rights abusers excluded from public office.

War crime trials were more than twice as popular as any other form of censure for those implicated in such abuses.

A low turnout in the parliamentary elections, only 33% of those registered in Kabul, was seen by many analysts as further proof of popular disillusionment at some of the figures who were allowed to stand.

Born in the remote south-western province of Farah, Joya spent most of her youth in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.

She returned to Afghanistan during the Taleban period and ran a school for women.

At the time all female education was banned, so the classes were conducted in secret.

She continues to work for an NGO called the Organisation for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC).

"How can a country improve when 50% of its population are silenced?" she said. "It is like a bird with only one wing."

She rose from obscurity three years ago with her first and most famous outburst against the Mujahideen, as a delegate at the Loya Jirga (grand council), convened in Kabul to formulate a draft constitution for Afghanistan.

On that occasion several ex-Mujahideen delegates tried to attack her after she described them as "criminals" who had "destroyed the country."

Her stance appeared to be endorsed when she was elected an MP for Farah in October, coming second overall in the province.

Such support for a woman candidate was an astonishing result from one of the most conservative regions of the country.

”Head Teacher Beheaded by Taliban Militants,” Aviva, 4 Jan. 2006.

Taliban militants beheaded a teacher in a central Afghan town while his wife and eight children watched, officials said on January 4, describing the latest in a string of attacks targeting educators at schools where girls study.

Four men stabbed Malim Abdul Habib eight times before decapitating him in the courtyard of his home in Qalat, said Ali Khail, a spokesman for the provincial government of Zabul.

The assailants made Habib's wife, four sons and four daughters watch, Khail said. His children were between the ages of 2 and 22. No other family members were hurt.

The insurgents killed Habib, 45, after he refused to go with them to meet their commander, said the victim's cousin. The attackers fled and Habib's wife called the police, Khail said. Police are questioning three people who were guests in the victim's home at the time.

Habib was the headmaster of Shaikh Mathi Baba high school, which is attended by 1,300 boys and girls. Zabul, a remote and mountainous province populated mainly by Pashtuns and bordering Pakistan, is a hotbed of Taliban militancy.

The former Taliban regime prohibited girls from attending school as part of its widely criticized drive to establish what it considered a "pure" Islamic state.

Zabul province's education director, Nabi Khushal, blamed Taliban rebels for the killing. "Only the Taliban are against girls being educated," he said. "The Taliban often attack our teachers and beat them. But this is the first time one has been killed in this province."

Hundreds of thousands of girls have returned to school since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. A UNICEF spokesman said the attacks were "incredibly worrying."

"Militants are clearly trying to intimidate communities and force families not to send their girls to school," Edward Carwardine said. "We hope these incidents will not deter families. ... Fortunately, so far we have not seen a decline in girls attending."

He said about 90% of Afghan adults are believed to support educating girls. Many of those who oppose it are in conservative rural areas dominated by ethnic Pashtun where the Taliban, who also are Pashtun, are most powerful.

The government condemned the killing. Esanullah said Habib resumed a more than 20-year teaching career two years ago after the Taliban threatened him while he was working for an aid group helping the disabled.

Since then, the Taliban had warned him twice to stop teaching. Habib's funeral was attended by hundreds of students and teachers. In the past year, Taliban insurgents have occasionally put up posters around Qalat demanding girls' schools be closed and threatening to kill teachers, Khushal said.

He said 100 of the province's 170 registered schools have been closed in the past two to three years because of poor security.

Of the 35,000 students attending schools in Zabul, 2,700 were girls, he said. There has been a series of attacks on girls' schools and teachers across Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fell.

In October, gunmen killed a headmaster in front of his students at a boys' school in southern Kandahar province, the former stronghold of the Taliban regime. Source: USA Today, 4.1.06.

”Taliban Gunmen Torch Primary School ,” Aviva, 8 Jan. 2006.

Suspected Taliban gunmen burned down a primary school in Afghanistan's main southern city on January 8, the latest in a spate of attacks against teachers and institutions that educate girls.

No one was hurt in the pre-dawn attacks against the Qabail Primary School in Kandahar, said Hayabullah Rafiqi Othak, Kandahar province's education director.

A group of men tied up two security guards and made bonfires of books and wooden desks that eventually razed the whole building, he said. The school, which was on a two-month vacation, taught some 700 boys and girls.

Dozens of schools have been burned since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden. Most of the attacks have come at night and have caused no deaths.

However, suspected rebels beheaded the headmaster of another coed school in the region. The Taliban maintains that educating girls is against Islam and also opposes government-funded schools for boys because they teach subjects besides religion.

Othak said reconstruction of the Qabail school would start immediately and some classes could resume when vacation ends in March.

The attack came hours after guards scared away arsonists who tried to set fire to another school in Kandahar, he said.

Five suspects were arrested in the attempted attack, said deputy provincial police chief Abdul Hakim Hungar. Source: AP, 8.1.06.

Joan Bakewell, "While we in the west celebrate our bodies, in Afghanistan a young woman has been shot for being too free," Guardian, 17 June 2005.

The death of a presenter of British television might merit a routine obituary listing their programmes and distinctions, if any. The report would be noted for the moment, prompt mild regret and then the world would move on. The death of Shaima Rezayee is entirely different. It deserves to be in the news and remain there, a reminder of the women who struggle to emerge from the stultifying life they endure in so many countries. The gulf between cultures resides in the lives and often bodies of their women.

Rezayee was shot in the head on May 18 at her home in Kabul. Some eight weeks earlier she had been sacked from her job at Tolo Television where she had worked since 2004. It was a brief but meteoric career, for in that time she had become the darling of Afghan youth. Rezayee was 24 years old, pretty and bold: she dared to present a version of the west's MTV in a country only recently loosened from the grip of the Taliban. She had the courage to show her face publicly alongside her two male colleagues, joking and chatting together as they introduced videos of musical tracks. The music was of all kinds: Iranian, Turkish, Arabic, western and Afghan.

The programme - called HOP - exemplified the porous nature of young people's music. Cultural barriers and national boundaries have no meaning in this world. Clearly Rezayee loved it: beyond the studio, she wore jeans, drank alcohol, made male friends. She would have been at home on any street in London, Paris, Barcelona, New York. But in her own home town, she was gunned down. She had upset the mullahs and the conservative ways of her country, been attacked as anti-Islamic by the Supreme Court, and received death threats in the days after her sacking. Two of her brothers were taken into custody, and there is suspicion it might be an honour killing. The director general of Unesco condemned the murder, declaring: "On no account can murder be considered an instrument for cultural policy." Well, no.

How different it all is from the home lives of our own young women. Summer is here and it is the year of the skirt. Legs are flashing on every pavement; fake tans are whistling off the shelves. And everyone under 35 has long since given up on summer tights. Bare legs - golden and glistening - are the order of the day. Meanwhile belly buttons are still to the fore, builders' cleavages grace the derriere, and pregnant mums carry all before them like galleons under sail. Where one culture fears and hides the naked female body, the other celebrates and adorns it, flattering its curves and flesh, decking it with colour and glitter.

The streets of the west are a feast of youthful sensuality and delight. Not so easy if you're older, or bumpier, or slumpier. As each year passes, the fun goes out of fashion. The bikini went in my 50s; strappy dresses are no longer within range; upper arms call for long sleeves. And now, the dilemma of bare legs. But these are the gripes of a self-regarding, body-conscious culture. Basically, we in the west enjoy the freedom to celebrate our skin.

But why are religions so tough on women? In the Victorian heyday of muscular Christianity, the rules of feminine dress would have met the highest standards of the Qur'an. It was in religiously devout America that Janet Jackson's breast caused so much fuss. Only as we have become more secular have we shed our clothes and our inhibitions. Who are these gods that they should require their own creatures to be ashamed of their bodies? Granted, there are limits of polite society. An attempt to have topless newreaders was only ever a porno joke. But the notion that the supposed creator is offended by the natural beauty of his own creation is well nigh blasphemous.

Shaima Rezyee was at the crossroads of a punitive tradition that fears and resents women and the new tradition of global music and universal entertainment that celebrates them. If religious extremists of all faiths now want to put the clock back, they will have to reconfigure the role of women as we have, within my lifetime, come to enjoy it. The control of dress might seem a petty matter, but it is loaded with significance. It is for individual women to decide for themselves where along the cultural spectrum - from the easy ways of western display to the comfort of regular concealment - they choose to live. Who says that feminism has had its day?

Halima Kazem, “Afghans Decry Violence Against Women. After recent slayings, female protesters in Kabul call on Karzai's government to protect their safety and their constitutional rights,” LA Times, 6 May 2005.

Kabul, Afghanistan — More than 300 women took to the streets of Kabul on Thursday to protest growing violence against them and demand that the Karzai government take action against those responsible for the recent deaths of five women.

"Why is the government so quiet about the death of our sisters in the last two weeks? Women are dying on the streets of Afghanistan these days and no one is saying a word," said Jamila Afghani, an activist who organized the demonstration.

On Monday, the bodies of three women were found in Baghlan province, about 75 miles north of Kabul.

Provincial officials said the women had been raped, strangled and dumped on a road, with letters condemning them for working for international nongovernmental organizations.

On April 28, Afghan military forces fatally shot a woman during a brawl that erupted at a parade in the western city of Herat.

And a woman in the northern province of Badakhshan was publicly slain by her family and local mullahs April 20 after being accused of adultery.

"This is not justice. Afghan men are once again taking the law into their own hands and making life-and-death decisions for women," said Suraya Parlika, head of the All Afghan Women's Union, an independent lobby for women's issues.

Before it was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, the ultraconservative Taliban regime was known for publicly stoning women for alleged crimes that were not proved in court.

"Kabul is somewhat different. We have some freedoms, but in the provinces, Afghan women live as they did under the Taliban. They are prisoners of this repressive culture," said one demonstrator as she stood behind a large white banner denouncing government inaction.

Women from more than 26 organizations, including human rights groups and political parties, participated in the protest. Afraid of being singled out, many of them huddled in tight groups, tugging on their scarves and shirttails.

"We want the government to implement the laws and rights given to us. So far everything has been on paper. I haven't heard President Karzai or any other government official truly stand up for us," said Farah, a demonstrator clad in a burka who did not want to give her full name.

Hours after the protest, President Hamid Karzai's office said it had not heard about the event. However, in recent days the government has launched investigations into the deaths of the three women in Baghlan and the 22-year-old woman named Amina who was killed in Badakhshan.

Amina was beaten to death by her family after a local council led by the village mullah accused her of adultery.

"Twelve people are in police custody, including Mullah Yusouf, who is actually an armed local commander in the area. He is the one who issued the fatwa to kill Amina," said Ahmad Nader Nadery, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The commission said a local commander and three area religious leaders declared Amina guilty without a proper trial and sentenced her to death.

Although the constitution of Afghanistan, signed in late 2003, gives women equal rights, including the right to vote and to a fair trial, most of the country operates on customary laws based on traditions and interpretations of Islam.

Warlords still control large swaths of the country, and the family court system is practically nonexistent. The problem is compounded by a tradition of families taking matters into their own hands out of fear of public embarrassment.

"There needs to be a proper system to record marriages and divorces in Afghanistan, where women have proof of such events. Then they can protect themselves," said Orzala Ashraf, director of a nongovernmental group called Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children of Afghanistan.

The majority of crimes against women still go unreported, and many women say that there must be a shift in cultural attitudes.

"The government must enforce laws that protect women," said Rahina Saboor of the private Center for Afghan Women's Health Development. "The fear of a working justice system will start to change behaviors and eventually change the anti-woman culture that has developed in Afghanistan in the last 25 years of war."

"Amnesty Reports Persecution of Afghan Women,” Associated Press, 30 May 2005.

Afghan women are in constant risk of abduction, rape and forced marriage and the government is doing little to address their plight, the human rights group Amnesty International said in a report released Monday, 3 1/2 years after the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime.

A spokeswoman for the Afghan Women’s Affairs Ministry, Nooria Haqnagar, acknowledged that abuse was still rife and said, ’’In some remote areas, men deal with women like animals.’’

In its report, Amnesty called on the government and the international community to do more to improve the lives of women.

"Throughout the country, few women are exempt from violence or safe from the threat of it,’’ the London-based organization said in its report.

It said women are traded like commodities to settle debts and disputes and that some women commit suicide to escape being forced into unwanted marriages.

"Afghanistan is in the process of reconstruction after many years of conflict, but hundreds of women and girls continue to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, armed individuals,’’ the report said.

"Societal codes, invoked in the name of tradition and religion, are used as justification for denying women the ability to enjoy their fundamental rights. Perceived transgressions of such codes have led to the imprisonment and even killing of some women,’’ it added. ’’Some authorities treat women who run away to escape these situations as criminals and imprison them.’’

The rights group urged President Hamid Karzai’s government to condemn violence against women and reform the justice system so it is better equipped to protect women’s rights.

Haqnagar, the spokeswoman, said the government was working to improve the lives of women, but that the number of abuse cases reported to authorities had increased in recent months. She said on average 10 women were lodging complaints every day.

"In Herat province, women are burning themselves to escape abuse. They must have huge problems to take such violent measures against themselves,’’ she said.

Haqnagar, who is also the director of her ministry’s awareness and education department, said improvements had been made for women in cities, where the central government’s authority is strongest, but in remote rural areas where it has little control, few gains had been made.

Haqnagar said teams from her ministry had been dispatched to 10 provinces to raise awareness about women’s rights.

"We are trying our best to find solutions to these problems,’’ she said.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of women and girls have returned to work and school. Equality before the law is embedded in a new constitution, and some women have abandoned the head-to-toe public veiling that was mandatory under the tough Islamic regime.

Todd Pitman, “Report: Afghan Women Still Face Violence,” Associated Press, 7 March 2003.

Intimidation and violence against women continue "unabated" in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, a new U.N. report says. Although Afghan women returned to work after the fall of the Taliban, they continue to be forced into marriages and fall victim to domestic violence, kidnapping and harassment

Kabul, Afghanistan - Intimidation and violence against women continue "unabated" in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, a new U.N. report says.

Although Afghan women returned to work after the fall of the Taliban, they continue to be forced into marriages and fall victim to domestic violence, kidnapping and harassment, according to a copy of the United Nations Economic and Social Council report obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.

"Women are reported to restrict their participation in public life to avoid being targets of violence by armed factions and elements seeking to enforce the repressive edicts of the previous regime," it said.

The report cited incidents of self-immolations by women to escape domestic violence and forced marriages — sometimes at young ages.

"In impoverished rural areas, families have been reported to sell their daughters to escape desperate conditions or to settle bad blood between families," it said.

The 18-page U.N. report, titled "The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan," said women have come a long way since the 2001 U.S.-led war overthrew the hardline Taliban regime, which banned girls from school and prevented most women from working.

Today women work, study and even hold some government posts, but "in rural areas, especially the more conservative tribal belt, the situation of women has not changed to any great extent since the removal of the Taliban."

Islamic scholars say little has changed because many of the restrictive practices are tribal in origin.

The report said the government also was partly to blame.

It said the Department of Islamic Teaching in the Ministry of Religious Affairs had "trained and deployed women to stop 'un-Islamic' behavior among Afghan women in public institutions and places, and to monitor women's appearance and views."

The report said the country's lack of security is also impeding women's advancement.

"Despite positive developments regarding women's rights, intimidation and violence by regional and local commanders against women continue unabated," the report said.

Most of rural Afghanistan is ruled by regional warlords with their own private militias. The central government's authority is largely limited to the capital, where an international peacekeeping force is maintaining security. The government is still building its army.

Human Rights Watch has complained bitterly about the treatment of women in Herat, a western region run by Ismail Khan, a powerful warlord who is part of President Hamid Karzai's government.

Last year, girls accounted for 30 percent of the three million children who attended school in Afghanistan, while 28 percent of the country's 70,000 teachers were women, the report said.

Girls' schools in at least five provinces were attacked with rockets or set on fire by unidentified assailants late last year.

The report also said health care for women remains inadequate in the country, which has the world's highest maternal mortality rate.

Hilary Mackenzie, “’I’ve never known such brutality,’” Vancouver Sun, 15 March 2002.

Oppression of women under the Taliban regime went far beyond burqas and confinement. Here are harrowing stories of women married to the abusive fundamentalists.

From the moment Roshon Gul refused to allow her second daughter to marry a Taliban commander, she lived in fear of the reprisals her first daughter would suffer.

At 18, her oldest, Bibi Aisha, had already been married for 18 months to a Taliban official her family knew mistreated her.

So when a neighbour’s knock sounded on her door in the dead of night 15 months ago, Gul was half-braced for the sight of the bloodied body.

What she didn’t expect was the mark of a branding iron. Undressing the body for burial, Gul found the wound seared into the soft flesh of Bibi Aishi’s stomach.

It told her, as nothing else could, how Aktyar, the Taliban commander, had regarded her daughter. She was property.

Aktyar killed Baba Aisha to punish the family for not allowing Taira, then 16, to wed his brother, another Taliban commander. …

“It’s worse here than people think, [Dr. Sima Samara, deputy prime minister in the interim government for women’s affairs] said. “It comes down to human rights abuses.”


Caleb Atemi, “Double Agony for Women Refugees,” Nation Newspaper (Nairobi), 11 June 2001.

We mothers are angry, outraged.
We pay the high price
Of this dirty war.
We become widows prematurely,
We suffer rape and violence,
And economic burden
In a family...
What are you seeking,
Men of war,
Who get drunk on human blood?
Why this endless provocation?
What do you hope to win
With this bloodbath?

–Extracts from a letter by 11 Congolese mothers.

The story of women refugees in Africa is heart-rending. It is a story of tears and pain, agony and suffering, shame and humiliation. It is a story of death – yet, it is also a story of hope.

Congolese mothers put it aptly: "War and civil strife are caused by greedy male leaders who cultivate hatred and reap death".

Stories of women and girl refugees can move even the most callous to tears. From Kenya to Uganda, Tanzania to Congo, Somalia to Rwanda, Burundi to Angola, women are forever targeted for sexual violence, rape and other forms of brutality.

Theirs is a story of constant domestic violence and betrayal. Having fled their war torn countries into refuge, their husbands abandon them with heavy responsibilities, hungry and frightened children.

In a book titled: Somalia Between Peace and War; Somali Women in the Eve of the 21st Century, the United Nations Development Fund for Women argues that life in the diaspora has placed many families "under intolerable stress. The trauma of asylum has taken a terrible toll in divorce, suicide, alienation, and religious fundamentalism."

Many refugee women are burdened by heavy family responsibilities either through death or desertion of their husbands.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic further complicates the plight of women refugees. The United Nations Aids Programme describes war as a major cause of the spread of HIV/AIDS "through social dislocation, impoverishment and rape. Displaced women are particularly vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse by soldiers and rebel fighters."

Others are infected by their husbands.

In urban centres, refugees become victims of xenophobia, constantly harassed by the police, misunderstood by the public and depicted by the media as a drain on scarce economic resources.

The Jesuit Refugee Service says: "Mothers of an estimated 300,000 child soldiers have the devastating experience of seeing their children taken away to carry out unspeakable atrocities." Nevertheless, the fighting spirit and the urge to survive has held many women refugees together. They have refused to die.

In a book: War Has Changed our Life, Not our Spirit, the Jesuit service explores the tragic journey of the world's women refugees. It is a voyage of agonising tragedy.

Other literature on refugees, available at the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, tells of women’s determination and vitality. Confined to crowded camps, they are attacked each time they venture out to fetch water or firewood. Fellow refugees, local men or the police normally perpetrate the attacks.

In Dadaab, one of North Eastern's refugee camps, 85 per cent of all reported rapes occur between 9am and 1pm. The masked rapists often attack victims during food distribution exercises.

The assailants often address their victims in Somali, seeking their identity by clan. The refugee camps of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera have introduced irregular "mobile courts" to redress such attacks.

"In the year 2000, only three perpetrators of sexual violence were punished. Rape survivors are scared of testifying at this court for fear of retaliation. Many therefore opt for "maslaha", a kangaroo court where they get compensated after discussion and agreement between families and the offenders," says the Refugee Consortium in its April 2001 newsletter.

The Dadaab attacks symbolise events in other African camps:

Claire Ndayisenga, Burundi

She and her two children were lucky to escape the Burundi genocide. Scared and penniless, she moved through forests and valleys into the DRC. They suffered humiliation at the hands of Congolese families and soldiers; taunted, insulted, subjected to arbitrary arrests, stripping and searching. Then war broke out in the DRC, and their tormentors became refugees too.

Denisa Ratansata, Burundi

"After some days, soldiers attacked. Many people were killed. Some parents escaped without their children. It was very painful. Survivors were marched into camps where they could be more effectively controlled and subjected to rape and beating. People who resisted were killed. I decided to flee the country. On my way out, I saw bodies lying on the roadside, many of women and children."

Halima, Kakuma Refugee Camp

A mother of two, she first fled Somalia with her husband, and later left him when he shot and injured her. In her impoverished surroundings in Kakuma, Halima is hopeful that one day she will return home. Nothing – despair, loneliness, fear, violence – is stronger than her dream to return.

Christine, Sudanese refugee, Kakuma

"I became a refugee as my country was gripped by civil war. I ran for safety when I heard gunshots. When I saw dead bodies around me. I lost my father and my brother. I reached Kenya on foot after trekking for three days. Now I live at Kakuma camp – my husband left me a year ago, he went to the US seeking asylum."

Christine describes the decrepit shelter shared by both men and women: houses with dusty floors, doors that do not shut, walls riddled with leaking holes and soaked floors that take ages to dry.

Fartum, 15, shot by Somali gunmen in Mogadishu

"As we walked away from our home, one of the militia men shot me in the back." The bullet went through the neck, robbing her of the power of speech and paralysing her from the waist down. Fartum's mother and her sisters managed to get her to Mombasa by boat.

"For five days," her mother explains, "I held my unconscious daughter in my arms as we sailed." Fartum was eventually taken to the Jesuit Centre in Kangemi, which offers treatment to victims of gunshots, landmines and accidents. She was later taken to New Zealand.

She says: "My dream is to learn to walk again, perhaps even go to school. One day I wish to have a family of my own. Right now, I don't know when my wishes will come true but I have not given up hope of a better tomorrow."

Margaret, Sudanese refugee

"I was beaten by rebels when I was leaving Sudan. I was robbed. We were told that we were the wives of Arabs, and some of the girls were raped. When we came to Uganda, my husband was paralysed after a beating. His bicycle was stolen. Now that he is disabled, I have no one to help me raise my eight children."

Such tales are many and varied. Yet, despite persistent suffering, women refugees retain sanity and order in most refugee camps. They are the ones who re-weave the fabric of family life while urging men to stop wars.

In Rwanda, Tutsi and Hutu women – in defiance of their blood-thirsty, war mongering men – have been praying and working together for restoration of peace in the Great Lakes region.

Yes. Experiences of women refugees are not just sad and tearful. They are enriching and empowering. Their resilience and determination to survive and reconstruct societies is unmatched. Theirs is a story of remarkable tenacity and flexibility.


”Violence against Women Rampant in Asia,” Associated Press, 25 May 2005.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Violence and systematic discrimination against women was rampant in Asia last year, ranging from acid attacks for unpaid dowries in Bangladesh to forced abortion in China, rape by soldiers in Nepal and domestic beatings in Australia, Amnesty International said.

The London-based group's annual assessment of the state of human rights in the world reported abuses against women from almost every country in Asia in its report released Wednesday.

The largest section on women's rights was devoted to their plight in Afghanistan, where the group said the ouster of the conservative, Islamic Taliban regime in 2001 by U.S.-led forces did little to bring relief to women.

While women were a major focus of the Asian report, the group highlighted abuses ranging from summary executions in Nepal to restrictions on criminal defendants' choices of attorneys in Australia under new anti-terrorism laws.

Amnesty reported moderate improvements in the protection of rights in some countries, but the list of places where rights deteriorated was much longer.

Across Afghanistan, but particularly in the western Herat region, Amnesty reported that hundreds of women had set fire to themselves to escape violence in the home or forced marriage.

"Fear of abductions by armed groups forced women to restrict their movements outside the home," Amnesty said. Even within families, "extreme restrictions" on women's behavior and high levels of violence persisted, it said.

Westernized Australia did not escape the blight either.

In October, a U.N.-coordinated survey revealed that 36 percent of Australian women had experienced violence in a relationship. It was also reported that domestic violence was the leading cause of premature death and ill-health in women aged 15 to 44, Amnesty said.

In Nepal, rape by members of the security forces was frequently reported and violence against women from members of their family was also widespread.

Violence against women took an especially brutal form in Bangladesh, where at least 153 women were attacked with acid between January and October 2004. Reasons for most attacks were reportedly disputes between families on payment of dowry or refusal by women to marry or provide sex, Amnesty said.

China fared badly too, where serious violations against women and girls continued to be reported as a result of the enforcement of the family planning policy, including forced abortions and sterilizations, Amnesty said.

Amnesty highlighted the case of Mao Hengfeng, who was sent to a labor camp for 18 months for persistently petitioning the authorities over a forced abortion 15 years earlier when she became pregnant in violation of China's family planning policy.

Selective abortion of female fetuses remained common although illegal, resulting in a growing gap in the boy-girl birth ratio, Amnesty said.

The report said India still lacks comprehensive legislation addressing domestic violence and that the government failed to submit overdue periodic reports to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

In Pakistan, "honor crimes" against women - punishments meted out ostensibly for sullying a family's reputation - took bizarre forms with a tribal council directing in June that a 7-year-old girl, Mouti, be killed for an alleged illicit relation with an 8-year old boy.

Her father refused to accept the verdict and authorities provided the girl protection.


Violence against girls and women,” Panchayati Raj Campaign,, downloaded 28 Oct. 2006.

"Violence against women and girls, many of whom are brutalised from cradle to grave simply because of their gender, is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world today.

"Long after slavery was abolished in most of the world, many societies still treat women like chattel: Their shackles are poor education, economic dependence, limited political power, limited access to fertility control, harsh social conventions and inequality in the eyes of law. Violence is a key instrument used to keep these shackles on.

"Stopping violence against women and girls is not just a matter of punishing individual acts. The issue is changing the perception - so deep-seated it is often unconscious - that women are fundamentally of less value than men. It is only when women and girls gain their place as strong and equal members of society that violence against them will be viewed as a shocking aberration rather than an invisible norm."

-Charlotte Bunch, Executive Director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership, in UNICEF 1997 Progress of Nations

Violence against Girls and Adolescents

Trafficking and Sexual Abuse

• Over the past decade, more than 500,000 Bangladeshi women and children have been trafficked - smuggled into prostitution or forced labour across country borders. Women are abducted and lured by traffickers through threats, physical force, illegal confinement and debt bondage.
• Half of 150 people interviewed in Bangladesh admit experiencing some form of child sexual abuse.
• 16.26 per cent of rape victims are minors

Child marriage

• 50 per cent of girls aged 15-19 in Bangladesh are currently or have been married.
• Many girls have their first child while they are still teenagers. Over 10 per cent of girls currently 15 have begun childbearing in Bangladesh, the highest known percentage in South Asia. These young mothers face the stresses and risks of childbirth before their bodies have matured, and have a high incidence of maternal mortality.
• The risk of maternal mortality is three times as high for 15-19 year olds in Bangladesh as compared to even slightly older married women, ages 20-14.

Acid Attacks

• Women are disfigured and sometimes killed by male attacks using sulfuric acid, a cheap and accessible weapon. Reasons are as varied as family feuds, inability to meet dowry demands, and rejection of marriage proposals.
• There were over 200 reports of acid mutilations in Bangladesh in 1998 alone. UNICEF believes the actual number of cases is much higher.

Violence against women

Physical abuse and domestic violence

• Bangladesh's maternal mortality rate - at 440 deaths per 100,000 live births - is a leading cause of death. Yet, more women die from burns, suicide and injury than from pregnancy and childbirth.
• More than 70 per cent of women in some regions of Bangladesh suffer from domestic abuse.
• In 750 cases of family violence in Bangladesh, male relatives account for all but 29 cases of violence.
• Nearly 50 per cent of all murders of females in Bangladesh can be attributed to domestic violence.

Dowry violence and deaths

• There were 239 reports of dowry-related violence in 1998, an increase of 25 per cent from the year before. Because of the vast number of unreported incidents, this number is significantly higher.
• Physical and verbal abuse of wives due to non-fulfillment of dowry occurs in at least 50 per cent of recent marriages."

Psychological abuse

• The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women cites psychological harm as a major form of violence against women.
• Women suffer from belittlement, threats, taunting and confinement. This can lead to depression and even suicide.

Violence in motherhood

• Bangladeshi women 15-19 who are pregnant or have recently given birth are nearly three times more likely to die from violence than women of the same age who are not pregnant.
• Battered pregnant women are twice as likely to miscarry and four times as likely to have a low-birthweight baby.
• Children born to battered women are 40 times more likely to die in the first five years of life than children whose mothers are not battered.

Mistreatment in widowhood

• Widows in Bangladesh may be mistreated and secluded.

A 1992 study of widows from four squatter sites in Dhaka found that 70 per cent of younger widows are victims of sexual attacks.

”Bangladesh: Rise in Islamism fuels domestic violence,” Women in the Middle East, April and May 2006.

Deep-rooted social conventions and a rise in Islamism resulted in the deaths of thousands of women and children last year in Bangladesh.

More than 3,000 women and about 4,000 children were tortured to death in 2005 across the country, according to the report, released by local media monitoring group Mass Line Media Centre.

Many women were raped, beaten or attacked with acid by spurned lovers or for unpaid dowries. Many children from poor families were being trafficked out of the country, and many of them were raped by the traffickers, the report said. The researchers found that at least 435 children were the victims of trafficking last year, though many of them were rescued by police.

Meanwhile, human rights activists said rising Islamism will be a driving factor in the deterioration of the situation for women. Women are increasingly threatened with punishment by Islamists for not wearing the veil, a symbol of modesty in many Islamic societies, outside their homes.


David Carrigg, ”Victims of Violence,” Vancouver Province, 3 Nov. 2006.

Navreet Kaur Waraich

Navreet Kaur Waraich was stabbed to death at home in Surrey Oct. 29 as her four-month-old son looked on.

The 27-year-old was allegedly killed by her husband, Jatinder Singh Waraich, who was arrested at the scene. Jatinder has been charged with second-degree murder and remains in custody.

Waraich had been contacting her family in India to tell them she was having problems with her husband in Canada.

Manjit Panghali

Pregnant Surrey teacher Manjit Panghali disappeared on Oct. 18. Her burned body was found alongside Deltaport Road five days later.

Police are still investigating the killing. Panghali, 30, was a mother of a 3 1/2-year-old daughter and popular teacher at Cloverdale's North Ridge Elementary School.

Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman

On Oct. 19, Port Coquitlam resident Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman was shot in the face by her estranged husband, Paramjit Singh Ghuman.

The pair were in a vehicle stopped on front of a schoolbus when the shooting occurred.

Paramjit Singh Ghuman had previously been charged with assaulting Ghuman and was on bail at the time of the attack.

He fatally shot himself after shooting Ghuman. The 40-year-old mother of two remains in hospital in critical condition.

Amandeep Atwal

On July 30, 2003, Rajinder Singh Atwal stabbed his daughter Amandeep to death as the pair were driving near Prince George.

Atwal was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years.

Kim Bolan, “Family gathers to grieve for teacher,” Vancouver Sun, 30 October 2006.

Charred driftwood marks spot where body discovered

The parents and siblings of slain teacher Manjit Panghali gathered Sunday around a simple white cross marking the spot where her charred remains were found a week ago.

The makeshift memorial beside the access road to the Delta port is a few metres from where the pregnant woman's body was discovered Oct. 23.

Blackened pieces of driftwood and stones indicate the young Surrey mother was burned at the spot where her remains were found by someone out walking last Monday morning.

Family members left flowers in the burned rubble, as well as placing Panghali's photo on the white cross along with handwritten comments like "loving mother" and "beautiful person."

Panghali's brother Tur Basra said it was extremely difficult, but important, for the family to visit the site.

"I went there first myself, just me and the investigator," Basra said. "And then I wanted everyone else to come." ...

The growing Panghali memorial was started Saturday by the slain woman's best friend, Laura Hunger, who went to the place and was upset that nothing yet had been placed to commemorate her.

"We were shocked that there was nothing at the site," Hunger's husband Chris said Sunday.

He said that as they put up the memorial, the dark clouds literally parted and the sun shone down on the cross.

"It was just amazing how that happened," said Chris Hunger, who is also a close friend of Panghali's husband Mukhtiar or MP.

"I was at MP's house just after he was told what had happened," Hunger said. "I just want to get to the bottom of this."

The Panghalis' home at 16563 62A Avenue was quiet Sunday, though visitors continued to stop by to pay their respects. Indo-Canadian police officers could be seen canvassing the neighbourhood of newer suburban homes. ...

Mukhtiar Panghali, who is also a Surrey teacher, reported his wife missing to Surrey RCMP about 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, more than a day after he says he last saw her as she left for a yoga class.

He said the class was in Whalley, but The Sun revealed it was in fact in south Surrey and that Manjit Panghali attended and left about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18 without incident. ...

Delta police are investigating the murder, with the assistance of Surrey RCMP and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

Delta Const. Sharlene Brooks said police would not be commenting on the nature of the probe, whether there are any suspects or whether it is believed the murder was targeted.

But police have not been publicly warning women in the area to be on the lookout for a random predator.

Matthew Ramsey, "Mourners to come from around the world," Vancouver Province, 29 Oct. 2006.

"There are things that need to come out further. There will be a time and a place for us to talk, but right now we are praying," said Tur Basra, Panghali's younger brother. ...

As police work, Minneapolis criminal profiler Pat Brown told The Province that Manjit Panghali was likely killed by somebody she knew.

Pregnant women are almost never targeted by serial killers, he said.

"It's always more likely to be someone she knows," said Brown who is CEO of the Sexual Homicide Exchange.

Speaking in general terms about murders of pregnant women, the profiler said the suspect is often "the boyfriend or husband" and it's rare to see such women killed when they are pregnant with their second child.

Burning a body, as Panghali's was, indicates a desire to et rid of the evidence, he added. A stranger who kills a stranger will not usually go to that kind of trouble precisely because there is nothing obvious to link the victim to the suspect.

"Most of them, serial killers included, don't think it's necessary to do all that," Brown said.

Often when goes through the killer's mind is the desire to make it all go away - forever.

"Like writing on a chalboard, you just erase it and it goes away," Brown said. "It takes a psychopath to kill a pregnant woman. It takes a prety cold-blooded human being."

Kim Bolan, “Who murdered Manjit and her unborn?” Vancouver Sun, 27 Oct. 2006. Police launch hunt for killer after confirming burned body was that of missing Surrey school teacher

The disappearance of Manjit Panghali evolved into a complex murder case Thursday as police confirmed charred human remains found on a South Delta shore three days earlier were that of the pregnant Surrey teacher.

Hours after getting the devastating news, Panghali's shattered family put on a brave face and rallied around her little daughter Maya.

Both sides of Panghali's family, who have appeared distant in recent days, met at the home she shared with her husband Mukhtiar for the sake of the three-year-old girl....

"Mrs. Panghali and her unborn child have had their lives taken prematurely and very tragically. This type of crime defies comprehension and the value of human life."

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Roger Morrow said the team that has been on the case since Panghali was reported missing by her husband Oct. 19 will work with Delta, as will the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

He said the case has touched all those involved because the victim was a mother, four months pregnant, and a young teacher.

"I wish to extend my personal condolences to the family," Morrow said. "This is indeed a sad day."

He said forensic tests were still being done on Panghali's Honda Civic, which was found abandoned in Surrey's Green Timbers Park Monday afternoon. ...

A few kilometres away, relatives were also arriving at the home of Mukhtiar Panghali and his slain wife to offer their support. Even his younger brother Sukhvinder was there, despite facing a criminal harassment charge in connection with a former girlfriend he allegedly threatened over a three-month period last summer.

His lawyer made a brief appearance on the charge in Richmond Provincial Court Thursday.

A sign hung on the couple's front door said "immediate family only" to discourage media from intruding on their grief.

Police investigators have refused to comment on reports in The Sun this week about the legal troubles facing Sukhvinder, who shared a house with Panghali and her husband until a couple of weeks before her murder.

But Richmond RCMP has said the case involving the 26-year-old aircraft mechanic is so serious that his ex-girlfriend is in hiding fearing for her life.

Nor would investigators comment on the fact Mukhtiar Panghali waited 26 hours before reporting his wife missing to police.

He said he last saw her as she left Oct. 18 to go to a pre-natal yoga class in Whalley at about 6:30 p.m.

The Sun revealed that Panghali made it to her class, which was actually in south Surrey.

The Sun has learned that Mukhtiar first called his wife's family at about 6:40 a.m. on Oct. 19, mentioning that she had not come home and asking them to take Maya to preschool.

He then went to his teaching job at Princess Margaret secondary, calling RCMP about Panghali's disappearance at about 8:30 that night.

Delta police now has control of the criminal file, which had been in Surrey RCMP's jurisdiction when the 30-year-old was still a missing person.

Brooks said investigators will pull out all the stops to ensure a successful probe and prosecution.

But she also said they will remain tight-lipped about the high-profile case.

She would not confirm how many officers are working on the file or whether police could say the murder was a random act or targeted.

Nor would she provide any information as to the cause of death or whether Panghali was burned before or after she was killed.

"This investigation is still very much in its preliminary stages and police are not making any assumptions or drawing any conclusions with respect to suspects or motive," Brooks said....

Salim Jiwa, "Strife in home of missing woman. Pregnant wife wanted her brother-in-law, who is charged with criminal harassment, 'out of the house,'" Vancouver Province, 25 Oct. 2006.

An acquaintance of the Panghali family says all was not well in the Panghali home in the days before a young mom disappeared.

Manjit Panghali, 30, who is four months pregnant and the mother of a three-year-old daughter, disappeared last Wednesday.

The day before, her brother-in-law Sukhwinder Panghali, 26, who lives in the Panghali family home on 62A Avenue in Surrey, appeared in Richmond Provincial Court charged with criminal harassment.

"After the charge was laid she expressed a concern -- and she wanted him out of the house," said the associate, who did not wish to be named.

On Monday, Manjit's husband Mukhtiar said there were no problems at home.

He said that when Manjit, a part-time teacher at North Ridge Elementary School, left for yoga classes for pregnant women at about 6:30 p.m. last Wednesday she was in a happy mood. ...

Sukhwinder, her brother-in-law, is to appear in court again tomorrow on the criminal-harassment charge.

It alleges he criminally harassed a woman named Trisha Wright between June 19, 2006, and September, causing her to "fear for her safety or the safety of anyone known to her."

Sukhwinder Panghali signed an undertaking not to possess knives or other weapons.

Wright also obtained a restraining order that forbids Panghali from trying to contact her and several of her associates.

Salim Jiwa, "Husband waited before reporting wife's disappearance. He wanted to make sure pregnant woman wasn't with family," Vancouver Province, 24 Oct. 2006.

A Surrey school teacher admitted yesterday he waited 26 hours before telling the police his wife, who is four months pregnant, had disappeared.

Mukhtiar Panghali said the delay was caused by his efforts last Wednesday night and all day Thursday to find his wife Manjit.

He said he called police as soon as he was sure that no one among family or friends was aware of the whereabouts of his 30-year-old wife. "I reported her missing after 26, 27 hours," Panghali said yesterday. "Why? To make sure that she was in fact gone. I called friends and family to make sure no one knew anything."

Darah Hansen, "Family in fear as expectant mom goes missing," Vancouver Sun, 23 Oct. 2006.

Her worried family say her disappearance is a mystery.

"It's such a random act. Nobody is really sure what happened. We've tracked down the time she was last spoken to or seen and, after that, it's just such a puzzle," said Jagjit Basra, Panghali's younger brother.

Basra described his sister as a loving and caring woman who is completely devoted to her three-year-old daughter.

"Her being away from her daughter for this long -- it's just not right. It's not normal," he said.

Basra said his sister -- an elementary school teacher -- was not depressed, nor was she suffering from any known emotional upset. "You'd never think she has any problems or issues," he said. Basra said the family is grieving. "Anything could have happened to her," he said.


Rada Boric, “The Oasis,” New Internationalist Magazine, Issue 270, 2001.

I work in the Center for Women War Victims [in Zagreb, Croatia]. Or rather ‘War Survivors’. War has changed my life as it has changed many.

Now we talk about times ‘before the war’. ‘Before the war’ I was a professor of Croatian Language and Literature at the University of Helsinki in Finland. I was a visiting lecturer at Indiana University in the US. Only then it was Serbo-Croatian and Yugoslav Literature. I had started work on a Croat/Finnish dictionary. It made no sense once the war had started. Work in the Center enabled me to see the world through the eyes of refugee women.

I’m Mirsada from Sarajevo holding my husband’s cut head in my lap during the shelling of the town. I’m Ruza from Derventa. I buried all my valuables under the plum tree in my garden, hoping to go back but now I’m waiting for a refugee visa from Canada. I’m Mara, taken from hospital to a Serbian camp. I’m Alija from Prijedor with my forged passport going to Sweden illegally with my two little children. Their father, my husband, is missing. I want to start a new life. I’m Badem, hushing my daughter in the tram, hushing her so that the other passengers won’t recognize that we are Bosnians.

I’m all of these women. I remember my friend Eve Ensler, a playwright from New York, saying that everyone should, if nothing else, be a refugee for a day. To feel the loss. To understand. To share. In a refugee camp you can still feel part of a community. Outside, you are lost in a society which does not care.

My work in the Center is my runaway from the New Reality. I am facilitating self-help groups for refugee women, trying to help them regain control over their lives. What about my life? Did I not need to regain control, to find identity – women’s identity?

These women fled from Bosnia or occupied Croatian territory with their children and parents, hoping that once they reached Croatia they would be safe. And now, after all the atrocities they have witnessed, after all the traumas and all the resettlements, they face new problems.

Women and children make up 80 per cent of refugees. Jobless, their identity card entitles them to primary health care and primary schooling. Only the primaries. There are too few places in the refugee camps, no money to pay for decent shelter. But they struggle. This is why I need to identify with them. They know how to survive.

Take my friend and colleague Biba, 52 years old, a successful lawyer from Sarajevo who came to Zagreb with her daughter Dunja. There is no legal work for refugee women so Biba must try to find any work to feed herself and her daughter. She is Muslim by birth. Her husband, a Serbian, stayed behind working for the Bosnian Government. The family had never cared for nationality issues. But others did, and imposed their beliefs on the rest. To enable Dunja to go to secondary school Biba had to have her baptised a Catholic. To be Catholic means to be Croatian. The rest are ‘foreigners’. Before the war Biba used to come to Zagreb often. It was painful suddenly to be a foreigner, a refugee, in a town you considered your own.

So Biba will move to Canada. There is no future for mixed marriages in Bosnia. No possibility of becoming a Croatian citizen. Biba works with other refugee women in the barracks. She sings. She encourages them. She is cheerful. To start a new life when you are 52 is to be a survivor.

I live in an oasis of caring refugee women – a place which is focused on helping them to be who they were or are. And I learn life’s wisdom from them as we prove every day that women do not share hatred for each other. But outside in Croatia a parallel society runs on.

Ordinary women struggle for everyday life. To make ends meet on low salaries. To keep families together. There is no time for political engagement. While we are struggling to improve our everyday lives, strong patriarchal structures are deciding our fates for us. War proved to be a good excuse for sending women back into the home. Today, only a few women are in our Parliament. And even these often find themselves without a voice.

While statistics show that the majority of university students are women, everywhere else is disaster. We do not participate in decision-making, or in the peace negotiations... though we would know how to negotiate.

Croatia is balanced between war and peace, between nationalism and democracy. It is a young country suffering from a child’s disease. Here, national is more important than civil. Women are fit for motherhood only. There is a new family law which seems to give some benefits but is in fact a trap for working women. Lots of pro-life and Catholic organizations are working to change reproductive rights and make abortion illegal. The Church has more influence than ever, preaching a new moralism while the State profits from the war.

They say it is the same in all the countries ‘in transition’. Women are being transported backwards. We are losing the rights we took for granted under socialism. Then we had political egalitarianism. Sometimes this was a formality but there was legal and economic equality; there was equal status in marriage and the right to abortion; there was almost full employment. True, the public sphere was sexist and there were hidden violences against women at work and in the family. But the new democratic state based on national sovereignty has brought more catastrophic effects.

It has meant a return to traditional patriarchal images of women as mothers and wives. The ‘homeland mother’ is a role created by the new Demographic Movement in order to increase the national birth rate. It threatens women. Reproductive rights are no longer women’s rights but national rights.

Women have disappeared from public and political life. They form a majority of the unemployed. So-called ‘liberalization’ has brought with it open pornography, semi-legal massage parlours and illegal prostitution. When the soldiers come marching home, domestic violence increases – as does alcoholism.

No-one wants to talk of these things. Only women know what they mean. But when they speak of them they are attacked as a ‘national threat’ or denigrated in Parliament.

Many new women’s projects have been created in Croatia since the war began. And women from the countries of former Yugoslavia have stayed in contact with each other. No military tactic or manufacture of hatred could eliminate this decision to remain in solidarity with women on the ‘other’ sides. Women’s groups from Croatia are in touch with similar groups from Bosnia, Serbia and Slovenia, re-building bridges destroyed by politicians. Women are proving themselves to be promoters of peace and builders of civil society.

As women we are organizing because this is the only way to make our issues visible. We want to be activists, not passive victims. In all this nationalistic euphoria it is easy for me to choose my nationality: Woman. It is not enough to ‘look at the world through women’s eyes’ (as the Beijing Women’s Conference says). We must make the world a reflection of women’s minds and women’s efforts.

Rada Boríc works at the Center for Women War Victims in Zagreb, Croatia. The Center has been awarded two prizes for peace activism and for working with women regardless of nationality.


Mona El-Naggar and Michael Slackman, “Silence and Fury in Cairo After Sexual Attacks on Women," New York Times, 15 Nov. 2006.

CAIRO — There is fear in the shops along Talat Harb Street, and shame. It is not because of what the people who work here say they witnessed, the crowds of men groping women and pulling at their clothing. They fear the police returning, and they are shamed by their own silence.

“You know how our government works,” said a store clerk, his voice pulled tight as he was guided by a co-worker back into a shop just as he had begun to recount the attacks he witnessed. Another clerk told a reporter, “After you left the last time, state security came in and asked if we spoke to the press and demanded that we not speak to anyone.”

Recently, reports surfaced on Egyptian blogs, on television and in newspapers that groups of men had roamed the city streets during a holiday weekend and attacked young women — actually chased them down in packs. There were accounts from witnesses and victims.

But in the culture of Egypt’s one-party state, the charges were received as a critique of the security services. There was no collective soul-searching, no government call for an investigation. There was, instead, adamant denial followed up by state-sponsored intimidation of potential witnesses.

“What those sick people described humiliates all Egyptians,” said an official with the Interior Ministry, who asked not to be identified. “You think Egyptians would see something like this happening and stand back and watch?”

There has been a lot of state-versus-the-people news coming from Egypt lately: the riot police storming a university to quell protests, and a member of Parliament thrown in jail for criticizing the military.

There is an abiding sense that Egypt is out of order, and a frustration over systemic incompetence and negligence: a ferry disaster in which more than 1,000 people died, train crashes that killed hundreds, and fossilized government bureaucracies that seem incapable of responding. But the reaction to what happened during Id al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, has infused a deep sense of despair, deeper than usual, among the small segment of this society pressing for human rights, democracy, rule of law — and improved status for women.

“There is nothing that works right,” said Ahmed Fouad Negm, Egypt’s most popular contemporary poet. “Everything is corrupt and loose. And because the regime does not engage in political dialogue, it resorts to police repression. How can a state run on police?”

Talat Harb Street runs from the chaotic center of Cairo, Tahrir Square, which is an arterial roundabout where the Arab League of Nations has its headquarters and the Egyptian Museum displays the mummified remains of great pharaohs, like Ramses. Not long ago, when the holy month of Ramadan ended, crowds poured into the streets to celebrate. It was Easter on Fifth Avenue or New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

“All of a sudden, these guys attacked us and came in between us and harassed us,” a reveler told Al Ahram, the semi-official newspaper. “They groped us in a way that is worse than anyone on the crowded street could imagine.”

There is still uncertainty over what exactly happened in the streets that day. What is certain, though, is that the police have been adamant that very little occurred, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is degrading Egypt’s reputation.

“An individual called Wael Abbas who has an Internet site called The Egyptian Conscience is the one who invented this lie,” reported a pro-government newspaper, Rose Al Youssef.

Mr. Abbas is a young man who never goes anywhere without his digital cameras. He said he witnessed packs of young men hunting down young women, grabbing at their bodies. “I saw two girls wearing those khaliji abaya,” he said referring to the black flowing gowns favored by women in the Persian Gulf region. “Guys surrounded them and pulled their clothes and veils and groped them.”

He posted his account on his Web site, then fled after his mother received a suspicious phone call from someone seeking his work address. He hid for two days, he said.

His is hardly the only account. “We saw a girl running and went into the Syrian restaurant called Madyafa,” an unidentified witness said on a television show, “El Ashera Masa’an.” “At this point someone had torn her shirt.”

On the satellite television show “Al Qahira Al Youm,” another witness said, “They attacked girls walking, tore their clothes.” He added: “Shameless. And there were no police in the street.”

But the authorities say none of it happened. Minor disturbances, a few cases of harassment, they said, but nothing like what was reported. And the authorities were determined to silence those who sought to validate the more offensive accounts. “What they wrote is not only an exaggeration; they are complete fabrications and they are trying to make a case and issue out of a non-issue,” the Interior Ministry official said. “Not one woman reported one case to any official body.”

Human rights groups say it is not surprising that women — who did speak with the news media when they were promised anonymity — would not file police reports. In this society, women are often blamed when they are the victims.

Family dignity can be lost no matter who initiated the contact, no matter how violent it may be. The government understands that reality and has tried to use it at times to press people to cooperate. Last year, the police watched as thugs sexually assaulted women who protested a referendum to change the way the president is elected.

Small groups of women have been trying to dodge the police to stage demonstrations, voicing their outrage not only over the gropings but also over the official response to the attacks.

In the end, what is more troubling, the fear of being assaulted or the realization that the state does not care?

“This is not the first time this has happened, but the dangerous part is that it is the first time that it happened in such a collective way,” said Nesreen Khaled, one of the demonstrators. “Where are the police that are always there at the mosques? Where are the regular people to stop this from happening?”

Magdi Abdelhadi, "Cairo street crowds target women," BBC News, 1 Nov. 2006.

Egyptians are horrified by the news that women have been assaulted by hordes of young men in the centre of the capital, Cairo.

Blogs broke the story that has scandalised Egyptians

The incidents were first reported online by Egyptian bloggers, some of whom saw large number of men harassing the women and ripping off their clothes.

It all happened over the Eid al-Fitr period starting on 23 October, as thousands of young men thronged the streets of central Cairo to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

One blogger who took pictures of what happened dubbed the incidents "sexual voracity down town".

According to the bloggers, the attackers targeted veiled as well as unveiled women who happened to be on their own.

The state media ignored the incidents, but ordinary Egyptians where shocked when they heard for the first time eyewitness accounts broadcast on the private television channel Dream.

Women chased

"We saw one girl being chased by a man, her blouse torn off, she ran inside a restaurant," one eyewitness reported.

"We took the girl inside and locked the door. There were four or five of us. But there were hundreds of young men outside trying to break down the door."

Cairo shop owner

"Seconds later young boys were shouting that there was another one by the Miami cinema. We went there and saw another girl surrounded by a crowd trying to assault her. She managed to run inside a nearby building."

"A third girl jumped into a cab as she was being chased. But the taxi couldn't move because of the crowd. Then they tried to pull the driver out of the car then the girl herself," the witness told Dream TV.

One eyewitness was too embarrassed to recount what he saw: "There were youths harassing the young women. What a shame! I really can not say any more about it."

Social malaise

One blogger wrote that as the police failed to protect the women, shop keepers had to intervene.

A shop owner described to the TV station what happened: "We took the girl inside and locked the door. There were four or five of us. But there were hundreds of young men outside trying to break down the door."

The bloggers blamed the incidents on widespread sexual frustration among Egypt's youths.

Most of them cannot afford to get married and premarital sex is strictly forbidden.

One commentator said that this was evidence of the breakdown of law and order in Egypt.

Another said the state deployed the police only to suppress political dissent but could not care less about the welfare of its own citizens.

A psychologist, Amr Abu Khaleel, attributed the predatory behaviour to the possible use of drugs and the breakdown of traditional values.

One prominent writer and journalist, Nabeel Sharaf al-Deen, said that such behaviour was the symptom of a deeper malaise in Egyptian society and warned that such incidents were the first stirrings of much bigger social unrest.

A statement by the ministry of the interior played down the incident, adding that it had not received any complaints from the public. It urged those who had anything to report to contact the police.


”Fiji: Women Human Rights Defenders Threatened,” Scoop, 12 Dec. 2006.

12 December 2006 - (FWRM Press release) Human rights organisations and individuals have been threatened with violence, including rape, for speaking out on the current impasse in Fiji.

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement office and FWRM Board member Imrana Jalal, received threatening phone calls last week. The threats follow public statements by FWRM and an opinion piece by activist and human rights lawyer Jalal.

“I received a phone call on Monday afternoon (4th December) – an anonymous male voice threatened me with rape and attempted to intimidate me,” said Jalal, who has reported the criminal threat to the police.When she asked the caller to identify himself, “I was told that they would ‘shut me up forever’ and I was to wait because they would come and get me.”

FWRM Executive Director Virisila Buadromo was also told to ‘stop what she’s doing’ by a male caller who identified himself as being from the military.

“These threats against unarmed peace activists by the armed forces seem extreme. We have simply been advocating for the basic principles of the rule of law and democracy,” said Buadromo. The threats against the organisation and individual activists coincides with International Human Rights Day (December 10th), International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (November 29th) and16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women.

‘Women Human Rights Defenders’ (WHRDs) is a term referring to women who individually or with others, act to promote and protect everyone’s human rights. This sub-category of defenders has been singled out because they face risks particular to their gender committed by both state and non-state actors, including governments, the military and even within communities.

The 16 Days campaign aims to increase the visibility of violence against women as a human rights violation. The campaign has been utilised by groups all over the world to use international human rights instruments to address violence against women as a human rights violation and a threat to human security and peace worldwide.

"Fiji," DOS Report 2005.

Domestic abuse, rape, incest, and indecent assault were significant problems.


Amnesty International, Guatemala: Killings of women on the rise in 2006, 18 July 2006.

In a new report published today, Amnesty International revealed that killings of women in Guatemala have risen for the fourth consecutive year since 2001 as the government fails to effectively investigate and punish those responsible.

Over 2,200 women and girls have been brutally murdered in Guatemala since 2001. Up to 665 cases were registered in 2005; 527 in 2004; 383 in 2003 and 163 in 2002. 299 killings of women have been reported between January and May 2006 alone.

“Women’s murder rate in Guatemala is on the rise because there is no reason for the murderers to stop: they know that they will get away with it,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International researcher on Guatemala.

According to Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman, up to 70% of murders of women are not investigated and no arrests were made in 97% of cases.

In the few cases that are investigated, the process is usually flawed – forensic evidence is not properly gathered and preserved, few resources are allocated to each case and witnesses are denied protection.

On 4 July 2005, 26-year-old Clara Fabiola García was shot at in the town of Chimaltenango, south Guatemala and died in hospital short after.

Two years before, on 7 august 2003, Clara Fabiola witnessed the murders of 15-year-old Ana Berta and 18-year-old Elsa Mariela Loarca Hernández in Guatemala City. Her testimony was key to securing the 100 year prison sentence against gang member Oscar Gabriel Morales Ortiz, alias “Small”, in February 2005.

According to media reports, on receiving his sentence “Small” threatened Clara Fabiola García that she would pay for testifying against him.

No one has been prosecuted for Clara Fabiola's murder.

Amnesty International's report also highlighted that in hundreds of cases, victims are blamed for their deaths.

5 May 2006, [for instance] Guatemala's Chief of Police stated publicly that in order to prevent the murders of women it is necessary to “ask them not to get involved in street gangs and to avoid violence within the family, which we as police cannot do.”

Amnesty International, Guatemala: No protection, no justice: killings of women (an update), 18 July 2006.

At approximately 9:30 pm on 27 July 2005, 20-year-old university student Cristina Hernández(1) was forced nto a grey car outside her home by four men. Neighbours witnessed the abduction and immediately alerted her father who later related:

"I borrowed a car from a neighbour and my son and I tried to chase them in the car. Then I went to San Juan police station and begged the police to try to stop their car. I begged them to put up road blocks to stop them and catch them. Then after two hours of searching everywhere I went back to the police station to see if they had any news…they claimed I hadn’t reported anything and so they’d done nothing. Then my brother-in-law went to the homicide department; and they said nothing could be done. They said many young girls run off with boyfriends; and so they couldn’t start a search for 24 hours."(2)

The next morning her dead body was found. She had been shot four times and bitten all over her body. Instead of being subjected to a forensic examination, all but one item of clothing she was wearing were returned to the family. When the family presented the clothes to the Public Ministry to assist in the investigation, they were reportedly told to burn them or throw them away. Soon after Cristina’s murder, in fear for their safety, the family went into hiding where they remain at the time of writing. Nearly one year on, and despite the existence of critical leads, including witnesses and a potential suspect– no further investigations have been carried out. Her killers remain at large. ....

Killings escalate

Since 2001 over 2,200 women and girls have been murdered in Guatemala and the rate of murders is on the increase.(4) Between 1 January 2006 and 5 May according to police statistics 229 women and girls were killed. (5) Many of the murders have been characterised by exceptional brutality, with many victims subjected to sexual violence, mutilation and dismemberment.(6) Despite considerable national and international concern – including two visits and subsequent recommendations by the United Nations and Inter-American Commission special rapporteurs on Women - women and girls continue to be murdered with impunity in Guatemala. (7) As of June 2006, of the over six hundred cases of women reported murdered in 2005, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, only two convictions had taken place. ...

"My 15-year-old daughter María Isabel was a student and worked in a shop in the holidays. On the night of 15 December 2001, she was kidnapped in the capital. Her body was found shortly before Christmas. She had been raped, her hands and feet had been tied with barbed wire, she had been stabbed and strangled and put in a bag. Her face was disfigured from being punched, her body was punctured with small holes, there was a rope around her neck and her nails were bent back. When her body was handed over to me, I threw myself to the ground shouting and crying but they kept on telling me not to get so worked up.

With the help of witnesses, the authorities identified two of the culprits and a luxury car and obtained details of the house where she had been held. The case has been passed to two prosecutor’s offices but those responsible are still at liberty". (1)

The brutal sexual violence inflicted on María Isabel following her abduction and before her murder in 2001 is a characteristic common to many of the hundreds of killings of women and girls that have been reported in Guatemala in recent years. The failure of the Guatemalan authorities to subsequently detain and bring to justice those responsible for her murder is another characteristic of this case and many others. The suffering of many of the relatives of murdered women has been compounded by the knowledge that the government’s failure to adequately address these cases by ensuring such crimes are thoroughly and impartially investigated means that they will almost certainly never have access to truth and justice. At a broader level, the Guatemalan Government’s failure to prevent an escalation in the number of killings or to ensure effective prosecutions means that those responsible can continue to commit these crimes in the certainty that they will not be held to account.

Guatemalan authorities confirmed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that between 2001 and August 2004 they had registered the deaths of 1,188 women.(2) Nevertheless, the precise number of women who have been murdered is unknown and disputed. Figures vary among institutions and are based on different criteria. (3) One official source is the National Police Force (PNC, policía nacional civil) which recorded 527 cases of women violently killed during 2004. A number of factors, however, including relatives’ fear of reporting a murder and lack of public confidence in state institutions, in particular in the administration of justice system to adequately respond to complaints, suggest that police figures could be conservative. Some observers have questioned or dismissed the seriousness of the problem relating to killings of women by arguing the statistics are the same or similar to statistics for the killing of women in other countries in the Americas region. Amnesty International believes, however, that the pattern of brutality, the evidence of sexual violence, which can amount to torture in some cases, and the increasing number of women killed require the authorities pay immediate and urgent attention to the problem.

Most of the killings of women in Guatemala have occurred in urban areas of the country which have also witnessed a dramatic rise in violent crime in recent years often linked to organized crime, including drugs and arms trafficking and kidnapping for ransom, or to the activities of street youth gangs known as ‘maras’.(4) Men have also been affected by general levels of violence in the community and there has been a significant increase in the overall murder rate. Public security issues and breakdown in the rule of law are frequently cited as among the main concerns of the population at large.

Many women and girls in Guatemala live with gender-based violence: violence against women in the family, rape, and sexual harassment in the workplace are commonplace. Women and young girls are also the victims of commercial trafficking and sexual exploitation.(5) Police officers have also been implicated in cases of sexual violence. A number of the victims of killings were under 18 years of age.(6) Among the women killed over the last few years in Guatemala are students, housewives and professionals, domestic employees, unskilled workers, members or former members of street youth gangs and sex workers. While the murders may be attributed to different motives and may have been committed by both state and non-state individuals, a study of some of the cases shows that the violence is usually gender-based; the gender of the victim would appear to be a significant factor in the crime, influencing both the motive and the context, as well as the kind of violence suffered by the woman and the manner in which the authorities respond.

In a number of cases of murdered women, there is evidence that they were raped or subjected to some other form of sexual violence before they died. International human rights courts and international criminal tribunals have established that the pain and suffering caused by rape are consistent with the definition of torture. In many circumstances under international law, rape has been acknowledged as a form of torture owing to the severe mental and physical pain and suffering that is inflicted on the individual(7). Under international law, not every case of rape engages the responsibility of the state. It is however, accountable under international human rights law for rape by its agents and for rape by private individuals if it fails to act with due diligence to prevent, punish or redress it. Given the nature of the offence, rape committed by state officials has been recognized as being "an especially traumatic form of torture".(8)

Establishing a comprehensive picture of the extent of the violence perpetrated against women in Guatemala remains extremely difficult because of the lack of reliable official information. In particular, the almost total absence of sex-disaggregated data in official documents means that gender-related violence is generally under-recorded and often rendered almost invisible. For example, in the case of women who have been killed, the numbers presented by the police for 2004 attribute 175 deaths to gunshots, 27 to knife wounds and 323 to "other causes". These categories, however, conceal the gender-based brutality and sexual nature of many of the killings in which victims present evidence of rape, mutilation, and dismemberment. The absence of official information represents a serious setback for research and policymakers since any examination of violence against women as a human rights issue needs to be based on data that is broken down by sex and to follow a methodology that addresses women’s rights, gender and the victims.

Adam Blenford, “Guatemala's epidemic of killing,” BBC News, 9 June 2005. In Guatemala, a small country not long emerged from three decades of civil war, women and girls are being murdered faster than anyone in authority can cope.

Deborah Tomas Vineda, aged 16, was kidnapped, raped, and cut to pieces with a chainsaw, allegedly because she refused to become the girlfriend of a local gang member.

Her sister Olga, just 11 years old, died alongside her.

The raped and mutilated body of Andrea Contreras Bacaro, 17, was found wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown into a ditch, her throat cut, her face and hands slashed, with a gunshot wound to the head.

The word "vengeance" had been gouged into her thigh. Sandra Palma Godoy, 17, said to have witnessed a killing in her home town, was missing for a week before her decomposing body was found next to a local football pitch.

Her breasts, eyes and heart had been mutilated, reports said.

According to Amnesty International, which has collated these stories and others in a new report on the killing of women in Guatemala, the country's leaders must share the blame for an epidemic of violence that has killed more than 1,500 women in under four years.

In 2001, the first year separate records were kept for men and women, 222 women were registered as murdered, Guatemalan human rights activists have told the BBC.

By 2004 that figure had more than doubled, to 494. In the first five months of 2005, the tally reached 225 - considerably more than one killing every day.

Expression of hate

"It's a very serious problem for the country," says Hilda Morales Trujillo, a veteran defender of women's' rights and a campaigner for Guatemala's Network for Non-Violence Against Women.

Among Ms Trujillo's major concerns is increasing evidence that large numbers of women are tortured and brutalised before or after being killed. "The only explanation we can find for the use of extreme violence is as an expression of misogyny, of hate towards women," Ms Morales Trujillo told the BBC News website.

Almost casually, she uses a chilling Hispanic word - "femicidio" - to describe what is happening to her countrywomen.

In Guatemala, a male-dominated society that was heavily militarised during 36 years of civil war, thousands of men carry weapons and are no strangers to extreme violence.

But if Guatemala has slowly slipped toward Colombian-style anarchy since peace accords were signed in 1996 - as President Oscar Berger recently said - women at least have made real social progress.

Today more Guatemalan women go out to work, stay longer in education, and express themselves more freely than ever before.

In much of the country, their reward is a perpetual fear of violent, sudden death.

Prostitutes and female gang members are at the most serious risk, but the death toll includes women from all walks of life.

"Every day the numbers are growing, and for two reasons," Sandra Moran, another women's rights activist, told the BBC News website.

"Firstly, there is no respect for the body of a woman. People feel they can treat women however they want. Also, there is the idea that women are the property of someone.

"Because of this we find women are often tortured and sexually abused before they are killed. In some cases they are dismembered."


In its new report, Amnesty calls on Guatemala’s government to improve public education, inject real urgency into criminal investigations, and reform outdated laws on rape and sexual violence.

The report follows criticism of Guatemala in 2004 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which noted the high rates of murder, domestic and sexual violence, rape and kidnapping within Guatemala.

Hilda Morales Trujillo speaks of "a latent fear" among Guatemalan women, who are rarely protected by the country's overworked, underfunded and often corrupt police force.

In its report, Amnesty International catalogues examples of "serious and persistent shortcomings" in police work "at every stage of the investigative process".

"There is a common denominator to all the murders: impunity," Guatemala's Human Right's Ombudsman Sergio Morales said in 2004.

Anabella Noriega, who heads the women's unit in Mr Morales' office, told the BBC that out of more than 500 cases in 2004, just one ended in conviction.

Lack of interest by state authorities, failure to collect evidence and endemic corruption all feed the problem, she added.

Amid growing revulsion to the inhuman nature of many killings, a handful of women's groups and victims' relatives try to raise awareness of the issue at home and abroad.

But they face a culture of silence and are regularly targeted themselves. In the first week of May, 12 separate offices were ransacked, Sandra Moran said.

"No-one ever comes forward to tell their story.

"The message is that people can do whatever they want, with no chance of prosecution.

"We all feel afraid. But it just makes us want to carry on."

Amnesty International, "Guatemala: No protection, no justice: Killings of women in Guatemala, 9 June 2005.

"My 15-year-old daughter María Isabel was a student and worked in a shop in the holidays. On the night of 15 December 2001, she was kidnapped in the capital. Her body was found shortly before Christmas. She had been raped, her hands and feet had been tied with barbed wire, she had been stabbed and strangled and put in a bag. Her face was disfigured from being punched, her body was punctured with small holes, there was a rope around her neck and her nails were bent back. When her body was handed over to me, I threw myself to the ground shouting and crying but they kept on telling me not to get so worked up.

With the help of witnesses, the authorities identified two of the culprits and a luxury car and obtained details of the house where she had been held. The case has been passed to two prosecutor’s offices but those responsible are still at liberty". (1)

The brutal sexual violence inflicted on María Isabel following her abduction and before her murder in 2001 is a characteristic common to many of the hundreds of killings of women and girls that have been reported in Guatemala in recent years. The failure of the Guatemalan authorities to subsequently detain and bring to justice those responsible for her murder is another characteristic of this case and many others. The suffering of many of the relatives of murdered women has been compounded by the knowledge that the government’s failure to adequately address these cases by ensuring such crimes are thoroughly and impartially investigated means that they will almost certainly never have access to truth and justice. At a broader level, the Guatemalan Government’s failure to prevent an escalation in the number of killings or to ensure effective prosecutions means that those responsible can continue to commit these crimes in the certainty that they will not be held to account.

Guatemalan authorities confirmed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that between 2001 and August 2004 they had registered the deaths of 1,188 women.(2) Nevertheless, the precise number of women who have been murdered is unknown and disputed. Figures vary among institutions and are based on different criteria. (3) One official source is the National Police Force (PNC, policía nacional civil) which recorded 527 cases of women violently killed during 2004. A number of factors, however, including relatives’ fear of reporting a murder and lack of public confidence in state institutions, in particular in the administration of justice system to adequately respond to complaints, suggest that police figures could be conservative. Some observers have questioned or dismissed the seriousness of the problem relating to killings of women by arguing the statistics are the same or similar to statistics for the killing of women in other countries in the Americas region. Amnesty International believes, however, that the pattern of brutality, the evidence of sexual violence, which can amount to torture in some cases, and the increasing number of women killed require the authorities pay immediate and urgent attention to the problem.

Most of the killings of women in Guatemala have occurred in urban areas of the country which have also witnessed a dramatic rise in violent crime in recent years often linked to organized crime, including drugs and arms trafficking and kidnapping for ransom, or to the activities of street youth gangs known as ‘maras’.(4) Men have also been affected by general levels of violence in the community and there has been a significant increase in the overall murder rate. Public security issues and breakdown in the rule of law are frequently cited as among the main concerns of the population at large.

Many women and girls in Guatemala live with gender-based violence: violence against women in the family, rape, and sexual harassment in the workplace are commonplace. Women and young girls are also the victims of commercial trafficking and sexual exploitation.(5) Police officers have also been implicated in cases of sexual violence. A number of the victims of killings were under 18 years of age.(6) Among the women killed over the last few years in Guatemala are students, housewives and professionals, domestic employees, unskilled workers, members or former members of street youth gangs and sex workers. While the murders may be attributed to different motives and may have been committed by both state and non-state individuals, a study of some of the cases shows that the violence is usually gender-based; the gender of the victim would appear to be a significant factor in the crime, influencing both the motive and the context, as well as the kind of violence suffered by the woman and the manner in which the authorities respond.

In a number of cases of murdered women, there is evidence that they were raped or subjected to some other form of sexual violence before they died. International human rights courts and international criminal tribunals have established that the pain and suffering caused by rape are consistent with the definition of torture. In many circumstances under international law, rape has been acknowledged as a form of torture owing to the severe mental and physical pain and suffering that is inflicted on the individual(7). Under international law, not every case of rape engages the responsibility of the state. It is however, accountable under international human rights law for rape by its agents and for rape by private individuals if it fails to act with due diligence to prevent, punish or redress it. Given the nature of the offence, rape committed by state officials has been recognized as being "an especially traumatic form of torture".(8)

Establishing a comprehensive picture of the extent of the violence perpetrated against women in Guatemala remains extremely difficult because of the lack of reliable official information. In particular, the almost total absence of sex-disaggregated data in official documents means that gender-related violence is generally under-recorded and often rendered almost invisible. For example, in the case of women who have been killed, the numbers presented by the police for 2004 attribute 175 deaths to gunshots, 27 to knife wounds and 323 to "other causes". These categories, however, conceal the gender-based brutality and sexual nature of many of the killings in which victims present evidence of rape, mutilation, and dismemberment. The absence of official information represents a serious setback for research and policymakers since any examination of violence against women as a human rights issue needs to be based on data that is broken down by sex and to follow a methodology that addresses women’s rights, gender and the victims.

The prevalence of violence against women in Guatemala today has its roots in historical and cultural values which have maintained women’s subordination and which were most evident during the 36-year internal armed conflict that ended with the signing of the United Nations-brokered Peace Accords in 1996. According to the investigations and subsequent reports produced by the Guatemalan Catholic Church’s Project for the Recuperation of Historical Memory (REHMI, Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica) (1998) and the Historical Clarification Commission (CEH, Comisión de Esclarecimiento Histórico) (1999), of the estimated 200,000 people who "disappeared" or were extrajudicially executed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, a quarter of the victims were women. Their reports document how women were murdered, "disappeared", terrorized and stripped of their dignity by members of the Guatemalan military and members of the Civil Defence Patrols(9) (PAC, Patrullas de Autodefensa Civil). Rape and sexual violence were an integral part of the counter-insurgency strategy(10).

Many women who were widowed or who lost their children, their land and their livelihood, also had to contend with the physical and psychological sequelae of having been sexually abused during the conflict years and having to deal with pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections as well as the stigma attached to rape. The real magnitude of the violence women suffered during the internal armed conflict will almost certainly never be known, partly because cases were not properly documented, but also because many women, suffering internalized guilt or shame as a result of the sexual violence they suffered, remain too traumatised to come forward, afraid of reprisals or rejection by their communities.

The consequences of the internal armed conflict in terms of the destruction of communities, displacement, increased poverty and social exclusion has a bearing on levels of violence against women today as does the failure to bring to account those responsible for past human rights violations. The vast majority of women who were victims of human rights violations during counter-insurgency campaigns lead by the Guatemalan army during the early 1980s were members of Mayan indigenous groups living in rural areas whereas most of the reported murder victims in Guatemala today are ladino(11) women living in urban areas of the country . Yet, the brutality of the killings and signs of sexual violence on their mutilated bodies bear many of the hallmarks of the terrible atrocities committed during the conflict that went unpunished and reveal that extreme forms of sexual violence and discrimination remain prevalent in Guatemalan society. ...

Killings in exceptionally brutal circumstances

"In the case of women, the brutality used in cases of mutilation is definitely unique by comparison to male victims. Although sexual violence has been used in the case of many murdered women, it is also true to say that there have been cases of women who have been mutilated without being subjected to sexual violence which also demonstrates a particular type of cruelty that manifests itself in cuts to the face and inherent notion of the disfigurement of women’s beauty, the severing of organs …. In other cases, the murders are similar to those of men in that the bodies are found with the hands tied and with a single shot to the head, as happened in the past".(24)

A key characteristic in many of the cases of women who have been killed in recent years is the brutality of the violence involved. According to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women of the Public Ministry, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, as well as press reports, a number of the bodies of the victims bear signs of sexual violence. Some of the victims had had their throats cut, or had been beaten, shot or stabbed to death. Some of the bodies were mutilated. Many women were abducted and sometimes held for several hours or even days, before being murdered. ...

The bodies of many women, sometimes naked or semi-naked, are often abandoned in public places, on wasteland, down gullies or in city centres. As press reports regarding the case of 17-year-old Sandra Janet Palma Godoy indicate, many of the murders are exceptionally brutal. According to the press, her body was discovered next to a football pitch on 5 July 2004. She had reportedly been abducted a week earlier in the town of Buena Vista in San Pedro de Sacatepéquez. The reports indicate that her right arm, breasts, left hand, eyes and heart had been mutilated. One theory developed during the course of the initial investigation was that she had been a witness to a murder a few weeks earlier. Owing to the trauma of the killing, the family are reported to have left the area.

Some women, not necessarily gang members, have been murdered as a form of revenge or to instil terror or intimidate the local population. The IACHR Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women observed in September 2004 that she had received, "consistent reports of ‘exemplary’ killings in which the abuses reflected in the condition of the body of the victim and the place where the bodies were left, pursue the aim of sending a message of terror and intimidation"(27)

The daily newspaper, Prensa Libre, carried an article on 12 June 2004 about the discovery of the body of 17-year-old Andrea Fabiola Contreras Bacaro on wasteground in Jocotenango, Sacatepéquez. According to the article, the word "vengeance" had been carved into her right leg with a knife. The article described the brutal murder, stating,

"She was found with her hands tied in a plastic bag which had been thrown into a ditch used as a rubbish dump. Her throat had been cut, she had wounds and cuts on her face and chest and she had been shot at close range in the head. She had been raped, her plastic sandals, white blouse and underclothes were found next to her body."(28)

Some women subjected to attempted murder and rape have survived the ordeal only to be condemned to staying silent as a way of surviving the stigma attached to sexual violence.(29) If they do speak out, they can be ostracized because of attitudes that associate women’s sexuality with honour and perceive the type of violence they have suffered as shameful. In some cases, survivors have been abandoned by relatives or by their community. They have also been abandoned by state institutions which often fail to provide judicial redress or adequate medical attention. ...

According to the Network of Non-Violence against Women(31) (Red de la No Violencia Contra la Mujer), a third of all cases of murder take place within the family after the victims have suffered violent incidents and attacks, often in silence, for many years. In some cases, the victims were wives or former partners who were murdered after lodging formal complaints of ill-treatment. According to the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, in two cases that occurred in 2004, the victims were in the process of taking protection orders to the PNC when they were murdered by their husbands.

Some of the victims were murdered reportedly because they did not belong to, or refused to join a particular gang or because they wanted to leave a gang. Some did not belong to any specific group. According to one leading Guatemalan human rights lawyer,

"Some victims do not belong to any group but live in territory controlled by groups or youth gangs. If the latter fall in love with them and they [the women] reject them, the punishment is death. There has been a return to … each group wanting to own territory in which women are their property, they are "ours", they cannot be seen or touched by, or have relationships with, members of another group."(32)

For example, on 28 June 2003 members of the Mara Salvatrucha in Guatemala City kidnapped two sisters, Deborah Elizabeth and Olga Aracelly Tomás Viñeda aged 16 and 11 respectively. They were killed with a machete and parts of their bodies were found on 2 July in San Pedro de Ayampuc, 20 kilometres from the capital. According to investigators from the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, the two girls had previously received death threats from one of the perpetrators for refusing to have a relationship with him. The police classified the motive for the killing as "due to personal problems."(33) The criminal investigation concluded that the girls had been raped and cut up with a handsaw. In July 2004, the Third Sentencing Court (Tribunal Tercero de Sentencias) sentenced three members of the gang to fifty years in prison.

Controlling women’s sexual activity and fidelity has become a form of currency among men vying for power or control of a local area. In this context, some women have been murdered as a form of punishment of the women themselves or of family members or as a demonstration of power between rival groups. "Luisa", a former gang member told one Amnesty International delegate that,

"Such murders can be used to show which gang has most power. The one which does the most brutal things has most power, all the more so if nothing happens to them as a result. However, if someone is sent to prison … the group he belongs to loses points."(34) ...

(For the remainder of the report, see Amnesty International, Guatemala: No protection, no justice: Killings of women in Guatemala.)


Amnesty International, Honduras: Zero Tolerance... for impunity. Extrajudicial Executions of Children and Youths since 1998,” 25 Feb. 2003.

87% of victims are male and 13% female, according to Casa Alianza statistics covering the period 1998 to June 2002. However, the number of female victims reported has increased since 2001: in 2000, Casa Alianza reported 21 cases, in 2001 there were 60 and in 2002 there were 70 new cases. In some cases, murdered street girls and young women were also victims of sexual violations and other grave abuses. Rapes of girls and young women at the hands of the security forces are not reported, often for fear of reprisals.

According to the report from the Human Rights Commissioner, "the most serious accusation on the part of women belonging to gangs is that of detention at police posts. Accounts have concurred on the physical abuse and sexual violations received at the hands of police officers; in other cases, they are freed on the agreement that they will have sexual relations or simply "go out together" one weekend or pay a 100 Lempira ‘fine’" (page 30). There have been no known cases of any member of the security forces being prosecuted for these human rights violations against girls and young women.


Amnesty International, India: Justice, the victim - Gujarat state fails to protect women from violence. 27 Jan. 2005.

Over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in targeted violence in the State of Gujarat in Western India in 2002. The violence followed a fire on a train at Godhra on 27 February 2002 in which 59 Hindu activists had died. While the cause of the fire remains disputed, state officials and right wing Hindu groups claimed that local Muslims had planned and started it. In the subsequent large-scale violence against Muslims, girls and women were particular targets of Hindu mobs. By systematically and brutally abusing Muslim girls and women, they intended to humiliate and pollute the whole Muslim community. Several hundred girls and women were verbally abused, threatened, publicly stripped naked, raped, often gang-raped, had swords thrust into their bodies and were thrown onto fires while often still alive. Pregnant women and children were particular targets. ...

Proponents of Hindutva have ... not only called for the elimination of Muslims from India but also defined women’s bodies as the battleground on which the struggle to establish a Hindu state was to be carried out. Girls and women were targeted by Hindu mobs in 2002 specifically because they were seen as the biological and cultural reproducers and embodiments of the Muslim community, which Hindu right wing activists saw as their duty to defile, violate and destroy.

In 16 of Gujarat’s 24 districts, attacks on Muslim homes, business enterprises and properties resembled each other: mobs apparently using data from official tax lists, electoral rolls and other official records collated well in advance, targeted Muslims shouting the same slogans and made use of the same Hindu symbols. Unlike in earlier violence reported in India, women were particular targets of attack. Hundreds of girls and women were dragged out from their homes, stripped naked before their own families and thousands of attackers, who taunted, insulted and threatened them. They were then raped, often gang-raped, beaten with sticks, Hindu tridents and swords, had their breasts cut off and their wombs slashed open and rods violently pushed into their vaginas. Finally the women victims were mutilated or burned to death. The victims included young girls and old women, pregnant women and babies. Local investigators believe that between 250 and 330 girls and women were amongst the dead, most of whom were raped or gang-raped before their deaths. Dozens of reports by local investigators agree that the sexual assault on girls and women everywhere was not only deliberate but designed to inflict maximum suffering and humiliation. The logic of hatred against Muslims also explains the attacks by Hindu mobs on children, both born and unborn, which added a further layer of suffering on their parents. Pregnant women were violently raped and mothers had their children killed before their eyes. Kausar Bano who was nine months pregnant, had her womb cut open with a sword, the foetus was ripped out, killed and thrown into a fire before she herself was burned to death. At least 33,000 children, many orphans, who reached relief camps, had seen their close family members deliberately killed before their eyes.

Amnesty International, India: Crimes against women in Gujarat – denied and unpunished. 7 March 2003.

On International Women’s Day Amnesty International stands in solidarity with the women of Gujurat who were victims of gender violence during the massacres which started in the state on 27 February 2002.

”More than one year after the beginning of the massacres which targeted the Muslim community, there is still no official acknowledgment on the part of the government of Gujurat and the criminal justice system in the state of the magnitude and scale with which women were made a specific target of that violence,” Amnesty International said.

Accounts narrated by eyewitnesses as well as human rights activists indicate that a large number of women in Gujurat were beaten up, stripped naked, gang raped, stabbed with iron rods, swords, or sticks. Many of them were mutilated, disfigured and then often burnt alive by mobs allegedly led by Hindu nationalist groups. Police took insufficient action to protect the victims, while some officers reportedly instigated attacks or even sexually assaulted and verbally abused the victims.

Women’s activists affirm that women’s bodies were targeted as symbols of their community’s honour and as a means to assault the dignity and integrity of the whole community.

Amnesty International calls on authorities within the government, the criminal justice system, the health system and the administration of the state to publicly acknowledge the extent of the gender violence which took place in the state; to take urgent steps to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators; and to provide appropriate redress and protection to the victims.

Kuldip Nayar, “Crimes against women,” PUCL [People’s Union for Civil Liberties, India], March 2003.

Murder against women is now committed with impunity - for protest against forced marriage, merely being alone with a man, a glance which may be misconstrued to indicate anything other than an innocent relationship. Then there is "bride-burning". Human Rights organisations and women's bodies are more or less helpless. This sounds like a report from some part of India. But this is a dispatch from Pakistan, "where crimes against women are rising alarmingly".

The reason given is that "the prosecution rate is negligible and the men know they can get away with it". How similar is the scenario in our country! Once in a while there is a serious discussion as happened recently when a medical student was raped a few yards from her college in New Delhi police headquarters. Parliament was also worked up. The Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani, lent his voice to the demand for death penalty to rapists. Newspapers wrote editorials on the helplessness of women. But as the noise died down, the issue of crimes against women receded into the background.

The government has made amendments to the decades-old law to see that the victims of rape are not humiliated in court by the arguments that the defence offers. Indeed, it is a rape committed all over again in the open court. But what the bill offers is too little too late. The entire exercise lacks the response the situation demands. NGOs in India have continued to focus attention no rape or bride-burning. But why have they failed to arouse society? Is it because it has been brutalised for such a long period that it has lost the feeling of hurt? After seeing rapists and murderers go scot-free, people have, indeed, become cynical. Nothing shocks them anymore. Society has become insensitive. How to stir its conscience again is the problem facing us.

Women in the countryside are not even aware of their legal rights. But even those who know the law find that even the most horrifying cases take a strange twist by the time they come up for trial. There is some loophole somewhere that helps the culprits. Society does not get us angry as it does on the matter of religion or castes. Wrongs against women fail to evoke indignation even among women. They are too tied to wrong traditions and too used to suffering. They show all the traits of a patriarchal society where women are often little more than slaves.

One does not have to go back very far. A year ago we faced a crisis over the filming of the plight of widows in Varanasi. Society was not worried that their lives were worse than death but got angry when their plight was sought to be narrated through a film. People who at that time said they would force the Government to improve the lot of the widows are nowhere to be seen now. The matter was forgotten as soon as the producer abandoned the project. Why women have to pay the price for male chauvinism or prejudice is apparent - because it is a male-dominated society in India.

The evil of Sati is still eulogized. In one recent incident in Rajasthan many men, some from even the victim's family, were party to the ritual of a widow made to sit on her husband's funeral pyre. The police as usual reached late. The law fails to stop such practices because it is not deterrent enough. But the worst part is that society does not show anger or horror over such incidents. Somehow the belief persists that tradition sanctifies the practice. Why stick one's neck out? The supporters of Hindutva should try and eliminate such evils instead of planning another Gujarat elsewhere in the country. Any reform has to come from within. But most men are not interested.

Muslim women also suffer the same way. Pakistan has a law under which a man cannot marry when his wife is alive. In India there is no such bar. He can have four wives if he is brazen enough. The Government probably fearing the noise the fundamentalists might make hesitates to have a legislation similar to the one in Pakistan and in nearly all Islamic countries. But Muslim leaders should themselves take the initiative and rectify the wrong which is against the spirit of Islam.

During riots women are the worst suffers. Several inquiry committees have pointed out that they are easy victims because they are unable to escape quickly. Rioters do make them their target. The recent example is that of Gujarat. In its inquiry report, the Concerned Citizens Tribunal which has done yeoman's service in presenting the ugly and inhuman side of riots has said, "women were unblushingly molested", and Muslim men, women and children, in a travesty of Justice, were burnt alive.

Kalpana Kannabiran, a leading social worker, brings to light how the issue of sexual harassment and violence has entered the mainstream discourse in different ways. Masculinity and feminism continue to be constructed in strictly regimented ways with very little space for women students particularly to raise questions of discrimination, harassment or derogatory or obscene representation. In fact, the violence has become increasingly strident, an instance being cited of a campus on the subcontinent where the hundredth rape on the campus were celebrated! The positive side of this is that there is protest and resistance and persistent campaigning by women's groups and small groups of men and women - teachers and students - on campuses, in Delhi and Rajasthan, for example.

The discussion among male students, whether about women or about the right of senior students to services and obeisance from juniors, or about a general policing is by definition violent and involves extreme physical abuse. And masculinity is constructed around the ability to bear pain, the ability to be an active spectator, the capacity for silence and a firm belief in the patriarchies of age and gender and an utter contempt for any recourse to legitimate redress. The heroes are those that bear all these characteristics. In other words, violence has been institutionalised in the field or education.

Violence is both the subject of law and its context. And violence is always embedded in a social context ridden with unequal power and privilege. While men speak publicly in extremely derogatory sexual terms about women, the patriarchy of gender takes precedence over that of age. Silence is often the only recourse. Even this will pass. What happens in the courtroom is mirrored in the classroom, the campus, public spaces and the family, clearly the law cannot teach us why. Sociology cannot either, on its own. Only feminist sociology can help make sense of this.

Being at the lowest rung of the leader in society, women suffer the most in all sorts of tragedies, earthquakes, riots, and floods. A report by the concerned Citizens on the Orissa super-cyclone says more women died in the cyclone than men. Men survived the tidal wave in some areas by climbing to high places. In the aftermath of the disaster men migrated to towns in search of work, leaving women in charge of the surviving children and to fend for themselves. The destruction of houses exposed women to severe difficulties.

The worst was that there were hardly any programmes of rehabilitation specially geared towards the needs of women. The women's movement in Orissa is very weak. So there was no voice strong enough to plead their case. There was no definite proposal aimed at assisting the cyclone-affected women. There were many possibilities for designing horticulture and other plantation programmes, rural craft training, animal husbandry and programmes in education, health and sanitation. The poverty eradication programmes could have been reoriented in the context of the cyclone - taking women as the key players. But nothing like that happened. In fact, nothing like that happens anywhere in India.

Press Information Bureau, Government of India, “National Commission for Women, 8 March 2002.

In case of India, women have come a long way from women sages and scholars in the Rig Vedic period to women in the armed forces, IT sector, politics, industry and other significant areas while balancing their role as a daughter, wife and mother. This journey towards modernization has not been easy. Women have had to fight the traditional Indian male-dominated society to emerge as stronger and independent entities. While all these are positive developments, cases of rape, harassment at workplace and dowry deaths are rampant. …

The complaints received [by the National Commission for Women] relate to domestic violence, harassment, dowry, torture, desertion, bigamy, rape, refusal to register FIR, cruelty by husband, deprivation, gender discrimination and sexual harassment at work place.

”Indian women stripped in public for supporting cross-caste elopement,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 28 Aug. 2001.

A woman and her daughter in the southern state of Karnataka were stripped in public for encouraging a pair of lovers belonging to different castes to elope, reports said Tuesday.

Veeramma was stripped and paraded in Onenur village Sunday after the upper caste girl told her parents that she had encouraged her and her lover belonging to the Dalit (formerly known as the untouchable) community to elope last month.

When Veeramma’s daughter resisted the attackers, she was also stripped, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

The attackers ignored the pleas of Veeramma’s husband and paraded her from her home to the village council building.

Veeramma said she was allowed to leave only after her husband’s brother launched a complaint with the police.

Senior government officials visited the village after the incident but Veeramma refused to accept any monetary compensation from them saying that a woman’s dignity cannot be measured with money.

In another incident in eastern Bihar, a woman was stripped and paraded when she resisted attempts by some miscreants to beat up her husband.

The Indian Express said the incident took place on August 24. The attackers were reportedly annoyed with the couple as they had refused to work in the fields of a local landlord.

Human Rights Watch, “India,” Human Rights Watch World Report 2002.

Violence against women, including rape, kidnapping, dowry deaths, domestic violence, female foeticide, sexual harassment, and trafficking continued unabated, though authorities did take some positive steps in response.

“President expresses concern over women's lot in India,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 25 Jan. 2002.

Indian President K.R. Narayanan Friday expressed concern over the rise of crimes against women like rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment at workplaces and female foeticide.

"Half the number of women killed in India are killed in their bedrooms," Narayanan said in his traditional message on the eve of the country's 53rd Republic Day.

Narayanan said the cases of sexual harassment have risen by 40 per cent, murders for dowry by 15.2 per cent and trafficking in girls by 87.2 per cent over the years.

The figures were "indicative of their traumatized existence. No place is safe for them, not even in their mother's wombs. They are put to death even before they are born," the president said in a reference to female foeticide widely practiced in many areas of India.

Narayanan concentrated mainly on social issues in a speech that steered clear of hawkish noises and military muscle-flexing despite escalating tensions with Pakistan.

He said the problem of women in India was symbolic of the problem of inequalities and injustices in the society in general.

Narayanan said discrimination against women, dalits formerly known as untouchables and tribals was a "crying denial of democracy that is enshrined in our constitution".

Surinder Awasthi, “Crime against women on the rise in Punjab,” Times of India, 9 January 2001.

Crime against women showed a steady increase during the last decade despite the fact that the Punjab Police has created women's cells and many NGOs are functioning in this field. What is startling is that most of it remained unnoticed and what was reported to the police is understood to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The incidents of rape in the state increased from just 65 in 1991 to 299 in the year 2000, registering almost a five fold increase during the decade. The rise has been consistent during the last two years. While 215 cases were reported in 1998, the number rose to 260 in 1999 and 299 in year 2000 - thus showing an increase of 20 percent and 15 percent during the last two years. .... The study had also revealed that about 30 percent of rape victims were widows or their daughters while 80 percent of them belonged to lower socio-economic strata. Majority of the unreported cases of rape, molestation and wife-beating occurred in rural areas while dowry deaths, harassment and eve teasing occurred in urban areas, the study had pointed out.

Meeta Rani Jha, "Chappal Sticks and Bags," SikhNet, posted 19 September 2000.

Violence against women, of which domestic violence is a part, affects women of every class, caste, religion, tribe, and age in India. Depending on the particular social, caste, religious and class background, the violence women experience may be manifested in very different forms. As a result, women's groups in India do not work on the issue of domestic violence as separate from other forms of gender violence. In this paper, I first attempt to lay out the pattern of violence against women. Second, I describe the unique responses to violence developed by women's organizations, using both traditional forms of resistance as well as Western feminist strategies.

India has a population of approximately nine hundred million people, of which 49 percent are women. The Hindu caste system structures Indian society in a complex hierarchy that can be socially oppressive for the majority of women. Not only are the lower castes and tribal groups socially ostracized and oppressed, but women from these groups face multiple oppressions that are aligned along the lines of gender, caste and class.

Historical and traditional caste, gender, class and religious oppressions were further exacerbated during three hundred years of British colonial rule that empowered some higher caste women through access to education and economy, but simultaneously marginalized those at the bottom. Current economic conditions have worsened the divisions among women.

In order to understand violence against women, close attention has to be paid to the intersection of various systems and the harsh everyday realities in the lives of women. The majority of women are from small peasant and landless agricultural laborer households, and from communities of lower castes and tribal groups. Further, for many of these women, gender-based violence can be used by family members, men from their community, from other communities and by the state. These take on many different forms, from aborting female fetuses to the murder of women. The violence may include female infanticide; dowry payments (bridal gifts, compulsory marriage); sati (widow immolation); wife battery; dowry harassment; sexual abuse and incest; witch burning; physical violence; emotional and mental abuse of girls and women.

The life stories of many women, especially of poorer women, begin in the shadow of female infanticide, neglect, and sexual abuse at a young age from family members. Women occupy a secondary position in Indian society. Men are more valued because they are economic assets, carry the family line and have social and religious significance for the afterlife. Therefore, violence against women may begin before birth, with pre-natal sex determination tests carried out at private clinics that also offer abortion if test results indicate that the fetus is female. Violence against girls and women is common in any class, caste, and religion, but the economic and social background of the girl determines what hardships she is going to face.

As girls get older, the supposed burden of dowry (payment in exchange for marriage) is used to neglect their nutritional, educational and other critical needs. Historically, dowry, as moveable goods like jewelry, was given to women because they never inherited land, which in rural India, is the most valuable asset because it is able to accumulate capital. Dowry has been wrongly equated to land and over time has become a means for men to circulate valuables and money through women. Although many feminists have used the term "dowry deaths" as a rallying cry, it is wife murder with dowry as the excuse.

Once the girl is married, abuse by the husband and his family may begin. Later in life, many women face violence from their sons and family when they reach old age. If they are unfortunate enough to become widows, violence may take the form of widow immolation.

The proportion of females to males in India has been declining since the beginning of the century, in contrast to most other countries, where females usually outnumber males. India has a higher mortality rate for women, and a much higher mortality rate for girls than boys. Girls are more likely to die than boys between the ages of one to five years and the risk is 43 percent higher for girls than for boys. Birth order is influential in determining risk for survival-the higher the birth order, the lesser chance of survival. ...

Much of the violence that happens within the home (as private space) spills into public space depending upon the social group of the women. Women have very little ownership of any physical space they may inhabit, either private or public. For the majority of Indian women, violence crosses over into all spaces, not just designated private or public spaces. For many groups of women such as poor or tribal or lower caste women, violence is also perpetrated by the upper caste/class men, the state, police and landlord. This is often manifested as physical violence, sexual harassment, rape and mass rape on Adivasi women (tribal group), Dalit women (the word chosen by the anti-caste untouchable movement to describe themselves, a reclaiming of name) and working-class women in their homes, in their villages and in their communities.

Violence within the family has always remained hidden and even now, women hesitate to speak of it for a variety of reasons. Family violence or "family quarrel" is common to all classes, religions, and communities, all over India. In many families, particularly in the middle class, a woman's status is defined only in the context of a man's and the patriarchal family. Hence, it is difficult for women to give up their limited rights in an oppressive situation in order to break the pattern of abuse. This is exacerbated by poverty and hardship, scarcity of food and clothing, and lack of education. Social and religious traditions offer contradictory messages making a difficult situation almost intolerable for many women. Although women are taught to revere their husbands as gods, there have always been traditions of resistance with images of powerful women who have lived empowered lives. Unfortunately, in the current fundamentalist climate, the images of powerful women are given short shrift and the consequences for women are deadly.


“U.N. Sharply Rebukes Iran over Women’s Rights,” Reuters, 6 February 2005.

The United Nations on Sunday painted a damning portrait of women's rights in Iran, saying they had insufficient right of appeal against violence and were being sentenced to death on flimsy evidence.

Drawing upon her own status as a Muslim woman, Yakin Erturk, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, summed up with a cautionary note from the Koran.

"It will be asked from the girls who were buried alive: 'For what sin were we murdered?"' she said, quoting from the section of Islam's holy book entitled al-Takwir.

Yakin said in too many cases the tables were turned against women who filed suits, particularly after domestic violence.

"Those seeking redress are condemned as the guilty ones," she told a news conference at the end of a visit to Iran.

Evidence from an Iranian woman is worth half that of a man.

Erturk added women who had been raped faced numerous obstacles in getting their cases fairly heard.

"Women who defend themselves from violence are being sentenced to death," she said.

Iran's Supreme Court last July revoked a death sentence against Afsaneh Norouzi, who stabbed to death an intelligence officer she said tried to rape her.

"There are reports of trafficking women and girls, particularly to Gulf countries," she continued.

Her findings recommending judicial reforms and the abolition of the death penalty will be presented to a U.N. commission on human rights.


” Iraq: For the women, the war is just beginning,” Women in the Middle East, No. 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.

The women of Basra have disappeared. Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, women's secular freedoms - once the envy of women across the Middle East - have been snatched away because militant Islam is rising across the country.

Across Iraq, a bloody and relentless oppression of women has taken hold. Many women had their heads shaved for refusing to wear a scarf or have been stoned in the street for wearing make-up. Others have been kidnapped and murdered for crimes that are being labelled simply as "inappropriate behaviour". The insurrection against the fragile and barely functioning state has left the country prey to extremists whose notion of freedom does not extend to women.

In the British-occupied south, where Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army retains a stranglehold, women insist the situation is at its worst. Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death.

Many women are too afraid to complain. But, fearful that their rights will be eroded for good, some have taken the courageous step of speaking out. Under Saddam, women played little part in political life but businesswomen and academics travelled the country unchallenged while their daughters mixed freely with male students at university. Now, even the most emancipated woman feels cowed.

Behind the wave of insurgent attacks, the violence against women who dare to challenge the Islamic orthodoxy is growing. Fatwas banning women from driving or being seen out alone are regularly issued. Infiltrated by militia, the police are unwilling or unable to crack down on the fundamentalists.

To venture on the streets today without a male relative is to risk attack, humiliation or kidnap. There is a fear that Islamic law will become enshrined in the new legislation. Ms Aziz said: "In the Muslim religion, if a man dies his money goes to a male member of the family. After the Iran-Iraq war, there were so many widows that Saddam changed the law so it would go to the women and children. Now it has been changed back."

Optimists say the very fact that 25 per cent of Iraq's Provincial Council is composed of women proves women have been empowered since the invasion. But the people of Basra say it is a smokescreen. Any woman who becomes a part of the system, they say, is incapable of engineering any change for the better. Posters around the city promoting the constitution graphically illustrate that view. The faces of the women candidates have been blacked out, the accompanying slogan, "No women in politics," a stark reminder of the opposition they face. There is a growing fear among educated women, however, that the extreme dangers of daily life will allow the issue of women's oppression to remain unchallenged.

”Iraq: Baghdad kidnappers targeting women, children,” Women in the Middle East, No. 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.

The abduction of women and children has become a lucrative business for gangs in many parts of Iraq and particularly in Baghdad. Women are so fearful of being kidnapped that they rarely go out alone, and hire taxis to go to work. The victims are normally from wealthy families, but kidnapping is so widespread that even ordinary families cannot feel safe.

Women and children are easy prey because, unlike many men in Iraq these days, they usually do not carry guns; and families respond very quickly to ransom demands for women because they are deeply concerned about their reputation. Shakir Jumaa, 35, a car dealer in Baghdad, immediately paid $30,000 for his kidnapped teenager daughter who was released unharmed a day later.

Reliable data about the number of women kidnappings is hard to obtain. A source in the ministry of women's affairs, on condition of anonymity, said that they have no figures and that the ministry of interior declined to pass such data on to them. NGOs have come up with figures but they are hard to verify. For instance, Yanar Mohammed, head of the Women's Freedom Organization, claimed in a press conference last month that about 2,000 women have been kidnapped in Iraq over the last three years.

Some suggest that this is a rather conservative estimate. A police lieutenant colonel, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that most cases go unreported because families prefer direct negotiation with kidnappers to lessen the risk of their abducted loved ones being harmed. But families also refrain from contacting law enforcers out of suspicion of links between the latter and the kidnap gangs. Indeed, people who've witnessed abductions speak of victims being taken away by men in police uniforms and driving police cars.

These concerns are further fuelled by the fact that few kidnappers are ever caught. With so many women apparently being abducted, there are worries that some are falling into the hands of sex-traffickers. In a recent police raid on a house in the southern Baghdad suburb of Dora, officers discovered two kidnapped women together with forged passports - an indication that the abductors were preparing to traffic them abroad, said senior police officer Thair Hamid.

Women have turned into "cheap and exchangeable goods" in Iraq, according to the Women's Freedom organization. Children are not safe either. Suad Muhsin, 19, sobs and clings to her mother as she recounts how her brother Sabah, 12, was kidnapped in Baghdad's Sha'ab district three months ago, right in front of her eyes.

Muhsin stood on the family's balcony in the afternoon and watched Sabah who was playing down below. A car with three men stopped nearby, one of them, a man of average build in a suit, called her brother by his name. She first thought Sabah had been fighting with some boys and the man was trying to intervene - but then he forced Sabah into the car and drove off.

The kidnappers contacted the Muhsins by phone, demanding an ID12 million ($8,000) ransom. A week later they paid, leaving the money in a tissue box on a pavement in the Jadeeda district of the capital, as the kidnappers had ordered. A few hours later, Sabah's body was found in a garbage dump, a stone's throw from his parents' house.

"Iraq has turned into a jungle where the powerful defeat the weak without fear of God," said Suad angrily. "Saddam has gone and left behind [criminals] to roam freely." Shortly before the fall of his regime, Saddam issued a general amnesty, under which about 100,000 prisoners were released. Many Iraqis believe that the ex-president's parting has significantly contributed to the surge in kidnappings and other crimes in the capital over the last few years.

“V-Campaigns: Iraq,”, downloaded 28 Oct. 2006.

Since the US occupation and regime change in Iraq, women have lost more freedom than they’ve gained. Incidents of rape and abduction by organized gangs have increased fear of sexual violence in Baghdad, deterring women from returning to work or seeking employment, and increasing the incidence of ‘honor killings’ by male family members.[1]

Victims of rape or abduction refrain from contacting the police or hospitals, for fear of being killed for bringing shame on family honor.[2] Baghdad’s forensics lab reports performing at least 10 virginity tests on girls and young women each week, typically at the request of girls’ families.[3] Armed conservative religious groups are pressuring schools and workplaces to require women and girls to wear the veil under threat of acid attack or abduction.[3] Families fear permitting their daughters to go out at all, except to school and only in groups with escort.[4] Female student enrollment and attendance has dropped significantly.[5] Lack of jobs and security for women in general has forced some to resort to prostitution‚ at grave risk of an ‘honor’ killing.[6]

Heeding conservative religious protests, US military indefinitely postponed the swearing-in of the first woman in Najaf to be appointed a judge.[7] The Iraqi Governing Council, appointed by Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, proposed changing the celebration of International Women’s Day to the birthdate of one of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughters, but relented in response to women’s opposition.[8]

When the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) proposed adopting conservative Shari’a law over Iraq’s existing family law statutes, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) mobilized vocal resistance that led to the retraction of the resolution.[9] OWFI’s leader, Yanar Mohammed, received several death threats, and sought protection from the Coalition Provisional Authority led by Paul Bremer. She was told they had more urgent matters to attend to. Amnesty International had its own appeal on her behalf go unanswered by the Coalition Provisional Authority.[10]

The oversight of threats to women was unfortunate. Of the four women members of the Iraqi Governing Council and the interim Cabinet, two faced assassination attempts. Aquila al Hashimi was killed. Nasreen Mustafa al-Burwari survived, although her three bodyguards died. In April 2005, armed gunmen assassinated a female member of the National Assembly, Lamea Abed Khadouri, at her home, making her the first elected official killed since the January 30th elections. She was one of 90 female members of the 275-member National Assembly and had survived two previous assassination attempts.

Iraqi women’s organizations like OWFI are braving this hostile climate and death threats to demand women’s rights and representation in public bodies and to protect women’s lives in private, helping shield them from ‘honor’ killings as well. The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq estimates over ten years it has helped 250 women escape ‘honor’ killings by their families, hiding them in a safe house or even smuggling them out of the country.

One of them is Kajul Khudur, now living in Canada. Suspected of having an extra-marital affair, she was almost beaten to death by her husband’s male relatives while pregnant. The men decided to wait until after the baby’s birth to kill Kajul, so instead they cut off her nose. Yanar and others helped her escape Iraq through Europe to Canada. She has had plastic surgery, and her baby Lisa is now five years old.[11]


1 “Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad,” Human Rights Watch, July 2003. “Iraq: Insecurity Driving Women Indoors,” Human Rights Watch, July 16, 2003.
2 ibid
3 “Marked Women: A Rash of Unpunished Honor Killings Highlights the Harrowing Dangers Females Face in the New Iraq,” Time Magazine, July 26, 2004
4 “Violence Against Women Increases Sharply,” Amnesty International, 3/31/2004
5 “Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad,” Human Rights Watch, July 2003
6 Save The Children, UK, “Assessment in three schools,” Baghdad, May 2003.
7 “Marked Women: A Rash of Unpunished Honor Killings Highlights the Harrowing Dangers Females Face in the New Iraq,” Time Magazine, July 26, 2004
8 “New Female Judge Blocked in Najaf,” United Press International, 7/30/2003
9 “An empty sort of freedom,” The Guardian, 3/8/2004
10 “Iraqi Minister’s remarks on International Women’s Day,” State Department, 3/8/2004,
11 “Violence Against Women Increases Sharply,” Amnesty International, 3/31/2004

”Feminist Activists Increasingly Targeted By Extremists in Iraq,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 3 March 2005

Prominent women's rights activists are increasingly being killed by Islamic extremists in Iraq. Twenty women have been killed in Mosul alone and a dozen more in Baghdad, reports Newsweek. As a result, women are living in fear, attendance by female students in school has declined, and more and more women are choosing to wear the hijab (headscarf) to avoid harassment and violence. Despite these challenges, 94 percent of Iraqi women want legal rights, according to a poll commissioned by Women for Women International.

Zeena Qushtaini, a female pharmacist and activist, and Raiedah Mohammed Wageh Wazan, a local Iraqi television producer, were recently assassinated by extremists. Two weeks before Qushataini was killed, another activist was kidnapped with a briefcase full of fliers announcing an upcoming women’s conference and a list of addresses of her fellow activists. Later that week, one of the women on the list went missing, reports Newsweek.

Naba al Barak, a women’s rights activist and biology professor at Baghdad University told Newsweek that “this is a critical period … If there is no security, we won’t even be able to go out to the streets to protest something that is against our rights.”

Amnesty International recently released a report stating that Iraqi women are no better off now than they were under the rule of former dictator Saddam Hussein and that “gender discrimination in Iraqi laws contributes to the persistence of violence against women.” Many activists fear that newly elected members of the assembly could try to reinstate Resolution 137 – an attempt made by religious leaders in March 2004 to restrict women’s rights by putting current family law under sharia (Islamic) law.


”Nigerian woman sentenced to 100 lashes,” BBC News, 13 Aug. 2001.

An Islamic court has sentenced a Nigerian woman to 100 lashes for having an extra-marital affair.

The woman, Amina Abdullahi, was convicted by a sharia court in Gusau, capital of Nigeria's northern Zamfara state.

It is not known when the sentence will be carried out.

In January this year, Islamic authorities defied international condemnation when they sentenced a 17-year-old girl to 100 lashes after she was convicted of having premarital sex. Zamfara introduced Islamic law last year, becoming the first Nigerian state to do so.


”Muslim "Fanatic" Kills Pakistani Woman Minister,” New York Times, 20 Feb. 2007.

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suspected Islamist zealot shot dead a Pakistani woman provincial government minister on Tuesday because he believed women should not be in politics, officials said.

Zil-e-Huma, social welfare minister of the Punjab government, a women's activist and supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, was about to give a speech to dozens of people when the lone attacker shot her in the head. She died later in hospital.

The gunman, identified as Mohammad Sarwar, was immediately arrested.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat told Reuters the gunman had been implicated in six previous murder cases but had never been convicted because of a lack of evidence.

``He is basically a fanatic,'' Basharat said. ``He is against the involvement of women in politics and government affairs.''

The shooting occurred at Huma's party office in the town of Gujranwala, 70 km (43 miles) north of the provincial capital, Lahore.

``He considers it contrary to the teachings of Allah for a woman to become a minister or a ruler. That's why he committed this action,'' the police said in a statement.

Huma, 37, was married with two sons. Her husband is a doctor. She also ran a small fashion design business in Gujranwala. Zz Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, promotes a vision of ``enlightened moderation'' for the predominantly Muslim country of 160 million people and has vowed to empower women.

Women make up just over 20 percent of the lower house of parliament, according to the country's main human rights group, and there are three women ministers in the cabinet of the federal government.

But women still face widespread violence and discrimination in a male-dominated society, particularly in the countryside, where most Pakistanis live.

”Women Face Rampant Violence,” Aviva, 19 Jan. 2006.

Violence against women in Pakistan remained "rampant" in 2005, with President Pervez Musharraf sparking a global outcry with his remarks on rape, Human Rights Watch said in its new report: Human Rights Watch World Report 2006. According to the report military ruler Musharraf's government was too busy consolidating its own power and violating human rights in pursuit of the US led "war on terror" to take any action to help women. "Domestic and international human rights organizations and media drew attention this year to the governments dismissive attitude regarding violence against women," the report said. It highlighted the cases of Mukhtaran Mai, a gang-rape victim banned from going to the United States so she would not "malign Pakistan," and a female doctor who said a Musharraf aide coerced her to leave the country after she was allegedly raped by an army officer. Musharraf later said that getting raped had become a "money making" concern and that many Pakistanis felt it was an easy way to get a foreign visa and emigrate, the group said. "Despite the international and domestic condemnation, President Musharraf has not apologized for these remarks or withdrawn them," it said. The report further accused Pakistan of failing to overturn Islamic laws that make it almost impossible to prove rape, and for not tackling the deaths of hundreds of women in "honour killings." In addition the report contains survey information on human rights developments in more than 70 countries in 2005. Source: Agence France-Presse reported in Push Journal and Human Rights Watch Press Release, 19.1.06.

”Pakistan: Violence against Women on the Increase and Still No Protecyion,” Amnesty Interantional, 17 April 2002.

The Pakistani government is failing to protect women from increasing violence, in the home and community as well as in custody, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

In its fifth report on women in Pakistan, Amnesty International summarizes the current government's commitments to uphold women's rights, describes cases of abuses, the failure of the criminal justice system, and sets out recommendations.

"Domestic violence, which includes physical abuse, rape, acid throwing, burning and killing, is widespread in Pakistan. Few women make official complaints and those that do are often dismissed and sent back to their abusive husbands," Amnesty International said. "The law is not being applied equally and verdicts often reflect the gender bias of individual judges."

Very poor women, women from religious minorities and women bonded labourers are particularly vulnerable to violence in the community and home.

Acid-throwing is on the increase. Acid burns do not usually kill but result in hideous disfiguration and suffering, destruction of self-esteem, and confine women to the home. The government has done little to restrict the sale of acid or to punish those who use it to injure women.

Forced marriage of young girls continues to be reported and while slavery is illegal in Pakistan, girls and women continue to be traded to settle debts or conflicts. The open sale of girls and women in markets is reported in underdeveloped areas such as parts of Balochistan.

Pakistan is both a country of origin and a transit country for the trafficking of women for domestic labour, forced marriage and prostitution. This form of slavery is organized by crime networks that span South Asia. Some women, both local and trafficked, are killed if they refuse to earn money in prostitution.

"Honour" killings continue to be reported daily. In the higher levels of government and the judiciary, "honour" killings have been recognised as murder, yet there has been little effective action to prevent them from happening.

In March 2001, a 60-year-old widow, Hidayat Khatoon, and 55-year-old Baksh Ali were killed by the widow's son in Chandan village, district Sukkur. When the son surrendered to police, he said that he had been teased by villagers over his mother's alleged affair and had therefore killed both.

In November 2000, Mohammed Umar Magsi killed his 11-year-old daughter with an axe because he suspected her of having an affair. When his wife and younger daughter tried to intervene, he killed them as well. On 8 January 2001, Riaz Ahmed axed to death his wife, three daughters and two sons, because he suspected his wife of adultery. On 16 January 2002, Jamal threw hand grenades into his father-in-law's house when his wife refused to return to him, killing five of her relatives and injuring eight.

The emergence of "fake honour" killings is a worrying new trend. There is a pattern of men accusing their wives of being dishonourable with wealthy men purely for financial gain. The wife is declared "kari" (black woman, one who brings shame) and is killed. The suspected man is then made to pay off the husband and is "pardoned".

Physical abuse of women in custody continues to be rife in Pakistan. Despite promises of police reform, police continue to use torture to intimidate, harass and humiliate detainees to extract money or information. Rape in custody is widespread.

"Amnesty International's recommendations are well within the powers of the Government of Pakistan to implement and do not require a huge investment of resources. They do require political will and the determination that violence against women is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue," Amnesty International said.

"However, underlying the abuses suffered by women is a discrimination perpetuated by society as a whole. In this regard, everyone has a role to play - government, political parties, religious groups, all elements of civil society and individuals. Everyone has a responsibility to commit themselves to the equality of all human beings, irrespective of gender."

Crime Or Custom? Violence Against Women in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch. August 1999.

Women in Pakistan face the threat of multiple forms of violence, including sexual violence by family members, strangers, and state agents; domestic abuse, including spousal murder and being burned, disfigured with acid, beaten, and threatened; ritual honor killings; and custodial abuse and torture. In its annual report for 1997, the nongovernmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported, "The worst victims were women of the poor and middle classes. Their resourcelessness not only made them the primary target of the police and the criminals, it also rendered them more vulnerable to oppressive customs and mores inside homes and outside."

The most endemic form of violence faced by women is violence in the home. For 1997, HRCP reported that "[d]omestic violence remained a pervasive phenomenon. The supremacy of the male and subordination of the female assumed to be part of the culture and even to have sanction of the religion made violence by one against the other in a variety of its forms an accepted and pervasive feature of domestic life." A United Nations report on women echoes this point, explaining the nature of domestic violence generally in terms of the structure of the family:

Comprehensive studies on domestic violence indicate that domestic violence is a structural rather than causal problem. It is the structure of the family that leads to or legitimizes the acts, emotions or phenomenon that are identified as the "causes" of domestic violence under the causal analysis. This family structure is a "structure that is mirrored and confirmed in the structure of society, which condones the oppression of women and tolerates male violence as one of the instruments in the perpetuation of this power balance."


”Palestine: Women victims of systemic violence,” Women in the Middle East, No. 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.

Ramallah, West Bank - A new report paints an alarming picture of the abuse of women in the Palestinian territories, with police, courts and government agencies failing to treat violence such as rape and beatings as a crime.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch cited practices such as rape victims being forced to marry assailants and light sentences for men who kill female relatives suspected of adultery. It said families, tribal leaders and authorities, backed by tradition and discriminatory laws, often sacrifice victims’ interests for family honour.’ The problem is only getting worse with growing poverty and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza.

According to a survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics of more than 4,000 households in December 2005 and January 2006, 23 percent of the women said they had experienced domestic violence, but just over 1 percent filed a complaint. Two-thirds said they were subjected to psychological abuse at home.

Human Rights Watch called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, parliament and government ministries to make the protection of women a top priority. Commenting on the report, Adnan Amr, a legal adviser to Abbas, admitted that Palestinian authorities are weak’ in enforcing the law because of the security and political situation we have been through over the past two years. All Palestinians, not only women, are paying a heavy price for the chaos,’ referring to struggles between rival Palestinian groups.

The report, based on dozens of interviews with victims, social workers, lawyers and police chiefs in the West Bank and Gaza, found that abusers are granted virtual immunity. Rapists who marry their victims are not prosecuted, and such deals are often arranged by the families, tribal leaders and local police chiefs.

Even those assigned to protect the victims often push for such an outcome. The director of the West Bank’s only shelter for teenage girls is quoted as saying she arranged five such marriages in her six-year tenure.

The law is lenient with men who kill female relatives because of adultery. Yet it bars rape and incest victims from having abortions. Rape within marriage is not considered a crime, the report said.

Police and hospital doctors are not trained to handle abuse cases and often further humiliate victims, the report said. In one hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, a doctor announced to a crowded waiting room that his unmarried 16-year-old patient was pregnant. The girl’s mother later cited that incident as the main reason for her decision to kill her daughter, according to a case documented in the report.

A premium is placed on female virginity, with rapists facing a lesser punishment if the victim is not a virgin. Virginity tests are imposed on sexual abuse victims against their will. The women’s fate is increasingly determined by tribal leaders or Palestinian Authority-appointed governors, rather than overloaded courts. The informal justice system is often arbitrary and biased against the victims. Victims are often afraid to come forward because of social stigma, the perceived futility of complaining and fear of inviting retribution by relatives, the report said.


Sudan: Another woman sentenced to 100 lashes,” Bulletin, Women in the Middle East, No. 24, May 2004.

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Sudanese Organisation against Torture (SOAT), a member of the OMCT network, that a 22 year old woman has been sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip on charges of adultery in Sudan. Ms. Razaz Abaker, 22 years old, was sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip for committing Zina, illegal sexual intercourse. The sentence was handed down by the Nyala Criminal Court on 13 March. The 27 year old man who was charged with having had sex with Ms. Razaz was acquitted by the same court on the basis of insufficient evidence against him. This case was brought based on claims that Ms. Razaz gave birth to a child three years ago outside of marriage, after having had sex with a 22 year old man. A policeman brought the case to the attention of the Attorney General. On the same day, the Attorney General interrogated Ms. Razaz and she confessed to having had sex with the man in question. She claimed that he raped her and had promised to marry her. On the same day, Ms. Razaz was convicted by the court and sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip, which was carried out immediately, with no possibility of legal assistance or appeal. In Sudan, the Penal Code provides that a person can be convicted of Zina if (1) four witnesses testify to the act, (2) a person confesses to the act, or (3) for women, if they are pregnant and unmarried.

OMCT expresses its grave concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Razaz and unreservedly condemns the use of corporal punishment, which clearly violates international human rights standards that prohibit the use of torture. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the immediate infliction of punishment with no opportunity for appeal or legal consultation. OMCT would like to recall that the government of Sudan is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture. Sudan has failed to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a signal of the government's failure to adequately protect women's rights.


"Syria: Breaking taboo on violence against women," Women in the Middle East, No. 43, May & June 2006.

Syria has broken a taboo by presenting a high profile study on violence against women, which found that one in four married women gets beaten -- usually by her husband or father. (Reuters)

The study, released by the state-run General Union of Women and funded by United Nations Development Fund for Women, sheds light on the nature and extent of violence against women in Syria.

The results of the Syrian survey appear in line with studies in Egypt, Britain and the United States, but campaigners said it breaks new ground simply by drawing attention to the issue.

"This was a courageous study because it touched upon the very sensitive subject of violence against women, which is an essential part for improving the status of women," said United Nations Development Fund for Women spokesman Aref Sheikh.

Violence against women in Syria tends to be a family affair. Over 70 percent of abusers are husbands, fathers or brothers while married women are most likely to get hit. Excuses for the violence range from neglecting house work to bombarding husbands with too many questions, the study found.

Less than one percent of surveyed women said they had been subjected to violence from a complete stranger. Encouraging a woman in Syria to report violence from family members is not easy, a Syrian lawmaker said.

Syrian law stipulates lenient sentences to men who murder women relatives suspected of having sex outside marriage in what is known as "honour killings." Other murderers usually get the death penalty or life without parole.

Some experts estimate that there are about 200 to 300 "honour" crimes a year in Syria, mostly in rural or nomadic communities. This means about half of murders committed in Syria every year are against women and in the name of honour. Reuters 2006.

Background Research

Radhika Coomaraswamy, “Some reflections on violence against women,” Daily News, 16 Aug. 2001.

Violence against women is a latecomer to the world of international human rights. In the 1970s, women's issues focused on discrimination in political and economic benefits and an equitable development process for women of the Third World.

The major international convention which dealt with women's rights. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which came into force in 1979, adopted the "non-discrimination" model, women's rights were violated only if women were denied the same benefits as men.

Though there were sections on custom and traditional practices, the Convention was silent on the issue of violence against women. At the World Conference celebrating the Women's Decade in Nairobi in 1985, the problem of violence against women was raised but in a marginal manner, as an afterthought to the other provisions dealing with discrimination, health, economic, and social issues.

The following statistics indicate the extent of the problem of violence against women. In the United States a rape occurs every six minutes and violence occurs once in two thirds of all marriages. In Papua New Guinea, 67 per cent of rural women and 56 per cent of urban women are victims of wife abuse. In Santiago, Chile, 80 per cent of women acknowledged being victims of violence in their homes. In Canada, one in every four women can expect to be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. In France, 95 per cent of its victims of violence are women, 51 per cent of the above at the hands of a husband (Carillo 5).

In Bangladesh, assassination of wives by husbands accounts for 50 per cent of all murders. In India, there have been 11,259 dowry-related murders in the last three years. In Pakistan, 99 per cent of housewives and 77 per cent of working women are beaten by their husbands. Given the number of men in India and China, there should be about 30 million more women in India and 38 million more women in China. In Korea, two thirds of all women are beaten periodically by their husbands.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 80 million women have undergone sexual surgery (female circumcision) in Africa alone. Every minute and a half a woman is raped in South Africa, totalling approximately 380,000 women raped each year.

This neglect of the issue of violence against women generated a great deal of NGO activity in this regard, especially during the 80s, and 90s. This activity struck a responsive chord within the UN system and the process culminated in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on violence against women in 1994.


There are in effect three approaches to the issue of violence against women. The radical feminist approach locates the discussion in an understanding of patriarchy. According to this approach, violence is intrinsic in the relationship between men and women and manifests itself in sexuality as well as in the social and political institutions of society. This leads to a focus on problems of domestic violence, and rape as a manifestation of the initial inequality in the relationship between the sexes. Violence is therefore, pervasive and inherent in women's daily interaction with men.

Socialist feminism approaches the question of violence against women in a fundamentally different way. Violence is seen as a part of these social and economic forces which operate in society, forces which make women one of many victims.

The struggle against violence is, therefore, not a struggle against men and male domination alone, but against systems of exploitation which disempower women. Violence is a result of economic exploitation and only secondarily a function of the male-female relationship. Third world socialist feminists see female workers in certain industries as being victims of violence. There is also a concern with the commodification of women as sexual objects in prostitution and the international trafficking of women.

Eco-feminism also deals with violence against women in a significantly different way. It sees relationships between women and nature, between subsistence production in which certain women engage, and violent accumulation in which certain men engage, and the state.

Violence is seen as part of the military industrial complex: an attempt to destroy both women and nature. As is often said in these circles, "There is no essential difference between the rape of a woman, the conquest of a country and the destruction of the earth." The issues that are relevant to these groups are a concern with the destruction of the lifestyles of women living in the rural areas of the Third World, along with those who live in tribal homelands. Violence is seen as a by-product of the industrial age.

The human rights paradigm, on the other hand, privileges a certain type of human personality, namely, the free, independent woman as an individual endowed with rights and rational agency. The core concept of the human rights approach centres around the issue of empowerment. Violence against women involves the use of force or the threat of the use of force to prevent the necessary empowerment of women within society.

The state is, therefore, under an obligation to ensure that women are given full opportunity to be independent and empowered without being abused. In the past, the human rights approach has centred on empowering women through access to education, equal employment, adequate health care, and equal civil and political rights. CEDAW, for example, is structured along these lines. The more modern approach, however, is that the right to be free and independent includes the right to be free from fear and the right to be secure in the family and in the community.

In addition, violence was initially seen as an act of private individuals, and the human rights model was not structured to hold states accountable for the acts of private citizens. But in recent times, there has been a growing understanding that state responsibility includes the duty to prevent the rights of individuals from being violated by private actors, whether they be individuals or corporations. The emergence of state responsibility for violence in society has been one of the most important contributions of the women's movement to the issue of human right.

The human rights approach to violence, therefore, is based on the rights of individuals to be free and independent without being threatened by the use of force. If force is not strictly construed to mean only the actual use of physical force, the mandate is a broad one. It implies the right to investigate all forms of action which disempower women because of the fear of violence, whether that fear is instilled by the State, by actors in the community or by members of the family. This broad approach appears to have been adopted by General Assembly in its declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Categorisation of violence

To be understood and confronted, violence has to be categorised. Gail Omvedt in her article on violence, appears to believe that violence can be categorised in terms of violence and sexuality, violence and economic exploitation, and violence and culture.

The first category includes violence which is the result of the sexuality of the victim, whether it be rape, sexual harassment, or domestic violence, although the latter does not completely fit the category. Violence and economic exploitation refers to aspects of a woman's life which are related to her labour.

This includes labour in sweat shops as well as prostitution and trafficking. It also includes violence against women as bonded labour or agricultural workers. Finally, violence and culture refers to cultural practices devised by different societies, such as female circumcision.

One may also categorise violence in terms of women's relationships to men and society. Women are subject to violence because of being female. In this capacity, they are subject to rape, female circumcision, genital mutilation, and female infanticide.

These relate again to the construction of female sexuality. A woman is also subject to violence because of her relationship to a man.

These include domestic violence, dowry murder, sati. Finally, a woman is subject to violence because of the social group to which she belongs. In times of war, riots or ethnic and caste violence, a woman may be raped or brutalised as a means of humiliating the community to which she belongs.

In recent times, violence has been categorised by the location of the violence: violence in the family, in the community, and by the state. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women categorises violence in this manner, and recent social science writing has also accepted this categorisation.

The General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence as: any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life. (Article 2).

This definition appears to envision individual victims at the receiving end of individual acts of violence. Women from the Third World would want to expand the interpretation of this section for a broader reading of violence. As Govind Kelkar has written:

A narrow definition of violence may define it as an act of criminal use of physical force. But this is an incomplete concept. Violence also includes exploitation, discrimination, unequal economic and social structures, the creation of an atmosphere of religio-cultural and political violence. While violence against women is part of general violence found in the social structures such as class, caste, religion and ethnicity, and in the way the state controls people, it also encompasses aspects of structural violence and forms of control and coercion exercised through hierarchical and patriarchal gender relationships in the family and society.

For an international consensus on violence, it is important that a broader reading is accepted by the international community.

A large majority of women writers appear to link violence against women with a lack of economic independence. Levinson studies 90 societies and found wife-beating to be prevalent in 75.

The four cultural factors that are strong predictors for wife abuse are sexual economic inequality, a pattern of using violence for conflict resolution, male authority and decision-making in the home, and divorce restrictions for women. Omvedt writes: the basis economic dependence of women, their propertylessness and resourcelessness, renders them fearfully weak in standing up and challenging violence and power that is used against them in society. (5)

Women's economic dependence disempowers them and makes them not only susceptible to violence, but also unable to challenge and fight against violence. Linked to the notion of economic dependency are other sorts of legal, political, and social dependency with make it difficult for women to assert their independence when confronted with violence. Legal systems which do not permit women to divorce, for example, or which do not support women when they are in a situation of violence aggravate the problem. Women are expected to remain in situations where violence is being used against them and, therefore, the nature and extent of the violence increases.

An undemocratic society which uses the military as the tool of repression is likely to have a great deal of violence directed against women. This militarisation develops a culture of violence in society, and violence against women is only of the many manifestations of the resolution of conflict through the use of force.

Patterns of socialisation which disempower women with regard to responsibility and decision-making, whether in the home or in society, also create an atmosphere where violence against women appears to be more legitimate. Patterns of conduct in the home and in educational institutions are extremely important in this regard, as is the media.

Violence against women is also the result of a society which wants to control the expression of female sexuality. Violence is often directed against women to ensure that she is 'chaste' and virtuous. It is argued that this is to ensure that the chicken she gives birth to are the children of the correct father and, therefore, the lawful heirs to his property. Allegations of adultery were the major reason for wife beating in Papua New Guinea. Sexual harassment of free trade zone workers is often excused by the fact that they dress "provocatively". And, of course it is always a defence for rape and harassment that the woman in her demeanour "asked for it." The fear of violence is an important part of women's reality and it conditions women's behaviour in many aspects of their day to day lives.

Male alcoholism is also one of the major reasons for violence in the family, along with a woman's refusal to perform her 'wifely duties", a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Although social workers have to take these causes into consideration, it is imperative that the legal system not recognize any of these excuses for violence as legitimate. Whatever the causes for violence against women, they should not be understood as justifications for the use of violence against women. Women's right to be free from violence is an absolute right which cannot be mitigated by empirically discovered social causes.

The role of the state

In the past, strict judicial interpretations of international law only held the state responsible for its own actions, for example, in relation to women in custody or detention, and during armed conflict. Domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment, for example, were not seen as state action but only as the acts of individuals. This narrow interpretation has been recently challenged. A state which tolerates violence against women at the community and family level, and which does not take effective measures to prevent this violence or hold accountable those who are responsible for the violence, is as guilty as the individual perpetrators.

This gives rise to a debate as to whether violence in the family should be criminalized" or whether the state should adopt measures of "conciliation" and "mediation". In my view, there are elements of criminality in the actions of private citizens when they engage in violence in the family, and those elements have to be reflected in the law. The seriousness of these acts must also be acknowledged.

The scope of the law should not prevent experimentation with new strategies that may be more effective in confronting this violence. The manner in which the "criminalization" of acts of violence is tempered by a "conciliation' process for effective results is up to individual states, as long as there are meaningful efforts and good faith to ensure that violence against women in the family and in the community is eliminated.

International standards

Until recently, there was no real set of international legal standards which relate to violence against women. The approach during the early stages was to make violence an aspect of discrimination and, therefore, central in spirit to CEDAW. Violence against women was seen to violate articles 2,3,5,6, 11, 12, and 16 of CEDAW. These articles deal specifically with prohibition of discrimination by public and private actors the obligation to ensure full development and advancement of women, the need to eliminate traditional practices which discriminate against women, the need to eliminate trafficking in women, and the need to promote employment, health, and equality in the family (Sullivan).

Though none of the provisions deal directly with the issue of violence, it was argued that eliminating the problem of violence is part of the elimination of discrimination. The Committee in charge of implementing the CEDAW stated clearly in General Recommendation 19 that violence is a form of discrimination. The attempt to stretch the Convention to include violence has been somewhat successful, but more specific international standards are necessary. Those standards have been clearly spelled out in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women passed by the General Assembly in December 1993. The preamble to the Declaration locates the problem of violence against women in unequal power and women's structural subordination. It also identifies particularly vulnerable groups of women who are at the receiving end of violence. These include minority women, indigenous groups, refugee women, migrant women, women living in rural or remote communities, destitute women, women in detention, female children, women with disabilities, elderly women, and women in situations of armed conflict.

The Declaration defines violence broadly to include physical, sexual, and psychological violence. It is categorized according to whether it occurs in the family, in the community, or by the state. Under each category, the type of violence which is prevalent is enumerated. In the family, these include: battering, sexual abuse of female children, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation, traditional practices which are harmful to women, nonspousal violence, and violence relating to exploitation. In the general community, types of violence include rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, intimidation, trafficking, and forced prostitution.

State violence is clearly defined not only as acts that are perpetrated, but also those which are "condoned." The obligations of the State are further spelled out in Article 4. The state is obligated to condemn violence and cannot invoke custom, tradition, or religion to avoid the obligation. States are expected to pursue all "appropriate means" "without delay" to adopt a policy for eliminating violence against women.

Other specific state obligations outlined in Article 4 of the Declaration include the ratification of CEDAW, the exercise of due diligence in preventing and investigating violence against women, in accordance with national legislation, and the punishment of acts of violence by the state or by private persons.

There are specific directives for developing legal and administrative mechanisms to ensure effective justice for victims of violence and to ensure that there is support and rehabilitation for women victims of violence. The Declaration recommends training judicial and police officials, reforming educational curricula, promoting research in this area, and engaging in full reporting of the problem of violence against women to international human rights mechanisms.

The Declaration sees the international community as an essential actor in the process of eliminating violence against women. UN agencies are responsible for promoting a variance of the issues in their program, collecting data on the problem, periodically analyzing the trends, formulating guidelines and manuals on the issue, and cooperating with NGOs in addressing the issue.

The UN Declaration is not a binding document, but it sets out international standards in a clear and comprehensive manner. The Declaration should be an integral part of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and provide her with guidance in her work.

The issues

The issue of violence in the family raises issues relating to the privacy of the home. Many will argue that the state should be cautious in invading the sanctity of the marital home. Dealing with violence in the family differently from other types of violence, however, is not in keeping with international standards. The doors of the family should be wide open for scrutiny if there is violence, but the strategies for dealing with this violence are left to national legislation as long as the legislation is in accordance with international norms.

Violence in the community raises different issues. Although the Declaration states that states should not invoke cultural or religious factors as an excuse for condoning violence against women, these identities are extremely powerful, especially in the Third World. A purely legalistic approach to these issues will not suffice and, in fact, may raise the argument that the Declaration is a "western" draft not related to the situation in the East or other parts of the Third World. If international action can link with NGOs in putting forward an argument that violence against women is never a part of an essentialist national "culture", only a manmade practice which distorts that culture, then the likelihood of making an impact in these societies is greater.

Violence by the state also raises particular issues. In repressive states, the problem of women in custody and detention is significant. In this context, the thrust to make the state answerable for violence against women is part of the general struggle for human rights and democratization. In pursuing these issues, it is important to work with NGOs and other groups who are interested in the general problems of democracy and human rights. The women's issue cannot be seen in isolation.

State responsibility for the general violence in society directed against women is, perhaps, the most important principle to emerge in this context. The assertion of this principle is, perhaps, the primary vehicle for making it clear to government that it is responsible if effective action is not taken to prevent, investigate, and to punish acts of violence directed against women.

In addition, states are responsible for ensuring that victims of violence are given humanitarian assistance. This humanitarian aspects should not be lost in a strict legal approach. It is an important component of any program aimed at eliminating violence against women. These social structures should be seen as part of the legal package the positive duty to provide assistance. The UN Declaration has made it clear that this humanitarian concern is also part of international legal standards.

(Radhika Coomaraswamy is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on ;Violence Against Women. She lives in Sri Lanka.)

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, “Punishment for Non-Marital Sex in Islam,”, downloaded from, 8 Oct. 2006.

Some examples of recent convictions under Sharia law:

1996-MAR: Afghanistan: Some strict interpretations of Islamic law calls for the death penalty for any woman found in the company of a man other than a close family member. Sexual activity is assumed to have happened. A woman, Jamila, was found guilty of trying to leave the country with such a man. She was caught and stoned to death on 1996-MAR-28. (1)

1996-NOV: Afghanistan: Under the previous, Taliban, regime, a woman, Nurbibi, 40, and a man Turylai, 38, were stoned to death in a public assembly using palm-sized stones. They were found guilty of non-marital sex. Turylai was dead within ten minutes, but Nurbibi had to be finished off by dropping a large rock on her head. Mr. Wali, head of the Office for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prohibition of Vice expressed satisfaction with the execution: "...I am very happy, because it means that the rule of Islam is being implemented." These executions (as well as hand amputations for convicted thieves) are regarded as religious occasions and are not normally viewed by non-Muslims. (2)

2000-FEB: United Arab Emirates: Kartini binti Karim, (a.k.a. Ms. Karteen Karikanderan), an unmarried citizen of Indonesia, was working as a housemaid in the United Arab Emirates when her pregnancy was detected. She and a man -- a citizen of India -- were charged with adultery. She was convicted; he fled the country before he could be arrested. She was placed on trial without a lawyer or a translator, "...alone and equipped with barely any word of the local language," . She was not told that she had a right to communicate with her embassy. Her embassy was not informed in advance of the trial. Under the UAE's form of Sharia, she was sentenced to death by stoning. The Indonesian government hired a lawyer and translator to appeal her case. (3) On APR-25, the appeals court reduced her sentence to one year in prison, followed by deportation.

2000-AUG: A woman, "Amina Abdullahi is sentenced to 100 lashes in the state of Zamfara for having premarital sex." (4)

2000-NOV: Attine Tanko, 18, is found guilty of having pre-marital sex out of wedlock. She was discovered to be pregnant. Her sentence of 100 lashes was deferred for up to two years after the birth, so that she could breastfeed her baby. Her boyfriend, 23, was flogged 100 times and given jail time. (4)

2001-SEP: Nigeria: A teenage single mother, Bariya Ibrahim Magazu claimed at trial that she was raped by three men. The court assumed that she was guilty, because she could not prove that her father pressured her to engage in sexual activity with the men. She was found guilty of two offenses: having pre-marital sex, and bringing false charges against the men that she claimed were responsible. Her sentence was 180 lashes. (5) "When nongovernmental groups ramped up pressure to free the girl, the government immediately carried out the sentence, ignoring a promised appeal process. The local authorities said they wanted to put an end to the controversy." (6)

2001-OCT: Nigeria: Safiya Hussaini Tungar-Tudu, a 30-year-old pregnant woman, had asked a Sharia court in Sokoto state to force a man that she alleged had raped her, to pay for her daughter's naming ceremony. The court refused, and then charged her with engaging in sexual intercourse outside of marriage. She was sentenced to be stoned to death. The man that she allegedly had sex with was freed by the court for lack of evidence. She successfully appealed the conviction. An appeal judge overturned her conviction, stating that there were very serious errors in her arrest and trial. She had not been given any legal representation, and the court had failed to establish the basic facts of the case. Above all, the alleged act of adultery had taken place before the Sharia law was implemented in the state. She was freed, and planned to remarry her former husband.

According to an Australian newspaper, the governor of Sokoto, Attahiru Bafarawa, "attacked the European Union and women's rights groups for criticising the Islamic court that sentenced her. He said he had received more than 500 letters from interest groups and individuals protesting against the conviction." Bafarawa said: "Unfortunately, most of the human rights groups were not patient enough to allow justice to take its course in the case of Safiya. Instead, they chose to be putting pressure on the executive arm of the government to interfere with the course of justice." (7)

2001-DEC: Sudan: An 18 year-old pregnant woman, Abok Alfa Akok, was accused by her husband of adultery. She claimed that she had been raped. The man co-accused with Abok was not tried due to lack of evidence. She was tried, even though the country claims that Sharia would not be applied to non-Muslims. In Sudan, a married person found guilty of adultery is executed by stoning; an unmarried person receives 100 lashes. She had no lawyer, and was unaware of her rights during the trial. She could not speak or understand Arabic, the language of the court.

The Court of Appeal in Southern Darfur overturned the death sentence and sent the case back to the lawyer court which set punishment at 75 lashes. By immediately executing the sentence, she was denied her right to obtain legal advice and/or an launch an appeal prior to the beating. (8)

2002-MAR: Nigeria: Safiya Hussaini, 33, was convicted of adultery. She was sentenced to be buried up to her neck in sand and to be stoned to death. However, her sentence was deferred until her 13-month-old daughter has finished nursing. She appealed her conviction. Her cousin, a Mr. Abubakar allegedly confessed to police that he had sex with her three times. However, the judge dismissed the testimony of the three policemen who witnessed Abubakar's confession, because a minimum of four witnesses are required under Sharia law. Hussaini's lawyers claimed that she also could not be convicted because of the four witness rule. The prosecution argued that witnesses were not required in her case; adultery had obviously taken place because she had become pregnant. Her defense team finally argued that, under Islamic law, the interval between conception and birth can be up to seven years! Only two years previous to the birth of her daughter, she was still married to her husband. The lawyers argued that her husband could possibly have been the father. Commenting on the conviction, Aliyu Abubakar Sanyinna, the attorney general of Sokoto State, said: "Society is injured by her act. The danger is that it will teach other women to do the same thing." 9 Mansur Ibrahim Said, Dean of the Law Faculty at Dakar University in Sokoto said that adultery is "an abomination abhorred by God and society because of the example it gives and because it creates bastards to be rejected by society." (9)

The appeals court later reversed the lower court conviction. They ruled that the alleged act had taken place before Sharia law was activated in the province, and adultery became a criminal offence. There was strong international interest in her case. The European Union, the parliament of Italy and many non-governmental organizations, appealed for Safiya to be spared. (10) In 2002-JUL, she married an entertainer in her local village.

2002-MAR: Nigeria: A woman, Amina Lawal Kurami, from the small village of Kurami in Katsina in norther Nigeria was sentenced to death for adultery. The sentence was delayed for eight months (one source said 2 years) until she has finished breast feeding her infant. Nigerian Justice Minister, Kanu Agabi, declared this and other Sharia punishments discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. This is the first time that the national government has made its position clear. 11 She appealed the conviction, on the basis that the offence occurred before Sharia law came into effect. Her lawyers also claimed that she had no legal representation in her original court trial before a village court. The appeal was rejected by the Islamic High Court in Funtua in Katsina state. Dozens of spectators cheered and shouted "God is great". Her execution will be delayed until at least 2004-JAN until her daughter has finished breastfeeding. The federal government is planning to help Kurami appeal her sentence to the Nigerian Supreme Court. This case may ignite a major legal battle between the state and federal governments. (12) Her case was eventually dismissed.

2002-MAY: Nigeria: A man, Sarimu Mohammed, 50, was sentenced to be stoned to death by a court in Jigawa for raping a nine-year-old girl. (5)

2002:Bauchi: A woman, Adama Unusua, 19, was sentenced to 100 lashes by a Bauchi court, for engaging in sexual intercourse with her fiancé. She was pregnant at the time of the trial. (5)

2002-JUN: Nigeria: A Sharia court convicted a man, Yunusa Rafin Chiwaya, of adultery in the northern state of Bauchi, and sentenced him to be stoned to death. He had confessed to engaging in sexual activities with his neighbor's wife, and had declined multiple opportunities to withdraw his confession. The woman in the case was cleared after she swore on the Qur'an that she had been hypnotized before she left home with Chiwaya. (13)

2002-AUG-25: Nigeria: The Upper Sharia court in the northern state of Niger has sentenced two people to be stoned to death. Ahmadu Ibrahim, 32, and his lover Fatima Usman had confessed to pre-marital sex. They have 30 days in which to appeal the sentence. (14)

2002-AUG-30: USA: A group of 25 women from the National Organization of Women (NOW) demonstrated in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC chanting: "Stoning women is barbaric...Follow the law and not the Cleric." And: "Ho, Ho! Hey, Hey! Religious extremists go home and pray!" They carried signs that stated: "Nigeria, stop stoning women" and "Rocks are for gardens, not to hurt women." NOW overlooked the fact that more men than women have been sentenced to be stoned to death in Nigeria. (12)

2002-SEP-24: Nigeria: By a vote of 4 to 1, a five judge panel overturned Amina Lawal Kurami's conviction. The appeals court found that lower courts had committed many errors under Sharia law:

Muslim belief allows for a five year interval between human conception and birth. Five years prior to the date of her daughter's birth, she was still married to her husband.

She was not given ample opportunity to defend herself.

Only one judge was present at her initial conviction; three are required under local Sharia law. (15)

References used:

1. "Woman Executed in Afghanistan", Associated Press News Service, 1997-MAR-30
2. "Afghanistan Execution for Adultery," New York Times News Service, 1996-NOV-06
3. Patrick Leduc, "A woman seeking pardon," Digital Freedom Network, at:
4. "Fact Sheet: Women's Rights Under Sharia in Northern Nigeria," National Organization for Women, 2002-AUG-22, at: 5. "Sharia Law," Guardian Unlimited, at:,6512,777972,00.html
6. Stephan Faris, "Final Decision Expected in Nigerian Stoning Case," Women's Enews," at:
7. Dan Isaacs, "Joy as court cancels stoning sentence," The Age, 2002-MAR-27, at:
8. "Sudan: Dinka woman whipped in Nyala," Pambazuka Newsletter, 2002-FEB-28, at:
9. "Law professor backs Nigerian stoning," AfricaWoman, at:>br> 10. Glen McKenzie, "Islamic court debates appeal in stoning case: Nigernian woman sentenced to die for adultery," Associated Press, The Toronto Star, 2002-MAR-19, Page A14.
11. Dan Isaacs, "Nigeria in crisis over Sharia law," BBC News, 2002-MAR-26, at:>br> 12. Jim Fisher-Thompson, "U.S. Women Protest Stoning Verdict by Nigerian Court. Activists decry 'barbaric' aspect of Sharia law," U.S. Department of State, International Information Programs at:
13. Mark Duff, "Nigerian man faces death for adultery," BBC News, 2002-JUN-27, at:
14. "Two lovers to die by stoning in Nigeria," Independent Online, at:
15. Todd Pitman, "Stoning death sentence overruled," The Toronto Star, 2003-SEP-26, Page A14

“Grave problem of violence against women in Greece, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zambia,”, 5 Feb. 2003.

Violence against women and girls persists around the world on a daily basis. Women frequently experience physical and psychological violence at the hands of State agents as well as within the domestic sphere by their own family members. Although States are obligated under international law to prevent, investigate and punish all forms of violence against women, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a public or private figure, States rarely fulfil this duty adequately.

… Violence against women is a phenomenon that transcends region, culture, and economic development.

UNFPA, “Lives Together, Worlds Apart: Men and Women in a Time of Change,” State of World Population 2000.

Gender-based violence — in various forms including rape, domestic violence, "honour" killings and trafficking in women — exacts a heavy toll on mental and physical health. Increasingly, gender-based violence is recognized as a major public health concern and a serious violation of basic human rights. (2)

Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way — most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member; one woman in four has been abused during pregnancy. (3)

Millions of women require medical attention or otherwise suffer the impact of gender-based violence; fear of violence inhibits discussion and constrains the health choices and life opportunities of many millions more. Zz Psychological abuse almost always accompanies physical abuse. In addition, one third to one half of all cases involve sexual abuse. A high proportion of women who are beaten are subjected to violence repeatedly. (4)

Violence against women is a pervasive yet under-recognized human rights violation. Accordingly, the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna,and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, gave priority to this problem.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms: •

At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be expected to be alive are "missing" from various populations, mostly in Asia, as a result of sex-selective abortions, infanticide or neglect;
• Studies suggest domestic violence is widespread in most societies and is a frequent cause of suicides among women;
• Rape and other forms of sexual violence are increasing. Many rapes go unreported because of the stigma and trauma associated with them and the lack of sympathetic treatment from legal systems. Estimates of the proportion of rapes reported to authorities vary — from less than 3 per cent in South Africa to about 16 per cent in the United States;
• Two million girls between ages 5 and 15 are introduced into the commercial sex market each year;
• At least 130 million women have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation or cutting; another 2 million are at risk each year from this degrading and dangerous practice;
• So-called "honour" killings take the lives of thousands of young women every year, mainly in Western Asia, North Africa and parts of South Asia. At least 1,000 women were murdered in Pakistan in 1999.

In the United States, a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds. (5) Physical violence is nearly always accompanied by psychological abuse, which can be just as demeaning and degrading. Among 613 abused women in Japan, for instance, close to 60 per cent had suffered from physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of their partners; only 8 per cent had experienced physical abuse alone. (6) Similarly, in Leon, Nicaragua, researchers found that of 188 women abused by their partners, only 5 had not been sexually assaulted. (7)

Measuring acts of violence against women and girls does not, of course, describe the atmosphere of terror that often permeates abusive relationships. For instance, in a nationwide domestic violence survey in Canada in 1993, researchers discovered that a full one third of all women who had been subjected to domestic violence had feared for their lives at some point in the relationship. (8) Women often assert that prolonged psychological abuse and degradation are more difficult to bear than physical pain. (9)

Many cultures condone or at least tolerate a certain amount of violence against women. In parts of South Asia, Western Asia and Africa, for instance, men are seen as having a right to discipline their wives as they see fit. The right of a husband to beat or physically intimidate his wife is a deeply held conviction in many societies.

Even women often view a certain amount of physical abuse as justified under certain conditions. For instance, 80 per cent of women surveyed in rural Egypt said that beatings were common and often justified, particularly if the woman refused to have sex with her partner. (10)

Justification for violence stems from gender norms — distorted views about the roles and responsibilities of men and women in relationships.

Worldwide, studies have shown a consistent pattern of events that trigger violent responses. These include: not obeying the husband, talking back, refusing sex, not having food ready on time, failing to care for the children or home, questioning the man about money or girlfriends or going somewhere without his permission. (11)


1. Heise, L., M. Ellsberg, and M. Gottemoeller. 1999. "Ending Violence Against Women." Population Reports. Series L. No. 11. Baltimore, Maryland: Population Information Program, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
2. Ibid. Over 50 population-based surveys provide estimates of violence by an intimate partner ranging from 10 to 50 per cent
3. Ibid.
4. Panos Institute. 1998. The Intimate Enemy: Gender Violence and Reproductive Health, pp. 1-20. Panos Briefing No. 27. London: Panos Institute.
5. Yoshihama, M., and S. B. Sorenson. 1994. "Physical, Sexual and Emotional Abuse by Male Intimates: Experiences of Women in Japan." Violence and Victims 9(1): 63-77.
6. Ellsberg, M. C., et al. Forthcoming. "Candies in Hell: Women's Experience of Violence in Nicaragua." Social Science and Medicine. Cited in: Heise, Ellsberg, and Gottemoeller 1999.
7. Rogers, K. 1994. "Wife Assault: The Findings of a National Survey." Canadian Center for Justice Statistics 14(9): 1-22.
8. Crowell, Nancy A., and Ann W. Burgess (eds.). 1996. Understanding Violence Against Women. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
9. El-Zanaty, F., et al. 1996. Egypt Demographic and Health Survey 1995. Calverton, Maryland: Macro International.
10. Armstrong, A. 1998. Culture and Choice: Lessons from Survivors of Gender Violence in Zimbabwe, p. 149. Harare, Zimbabwe: Violence Against Women in Zimbabwe Research Project; and Visaria, Leela. 1999. "Violence against Women in India: Evidence from Rural Gujarat." In: Domestic Violence in India: A Summary Report of Three Studies, by the International Center for Research on Women, pp. 9-17. 1999. Washington, D.C.: International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).
11. Armstrong 1998, p. 10.


Mechanical Crowds, “When the crowds are all gone,” 27 October 2006, downloaded from, 17 Nov. 2006.

For some reason there is very little English language coverage of this. It's not exactly the best image of Egypt, but pretending it did not happen will not lead to progress. And by not letting this out to the world we are pretending it did not happen.

I have to be honest, this is one of those times when I find myself left with no choice but to feel ashamed of being Egyptian. It is one of those times when I feel like I don't want to be in Egypt. When I feel like I want protect all the women that I care about (relatives, friends... etc) from this dark side of Egypt.

All my factual information is from Arabic language Egyptian blogs reporting eyewitness accounts. Non-factual information is from other Arabic language blogs that I've read about this. I am going to summarize this issue without stating my opinion for now. References are at the bottom.

The incident:

On October 23rd and 24th, large crowds of men sexually harassed women in the streets of downtown Cairo. Some pictures can be found at the bottom of this Post.

The facts:

• The crowds seem to have initially gather at a movie theatre where some actors were present for a movie premier. Tickets to the movie ran out and people started breaking glass and stealing posters.

• The first day involved more unconcentrated/disorganized harrassments. the second day involved larger crowds approaching girls at a time before surrounding them/her and groping them/her.

• There was no police involvement though Egyptian State Security were no more than 5 minutes away, stationed at Gam3et El Dowal and the American Embassy.

• The crowds did not spare women that were with their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, relatives.

• The second day harrassments lasted for more than 4 hours.

• The men's ages ranged from 10 to 40.

• Fights between the men sometimes ensued over who gets to assault the victim.

• Some bloggers report police officers receiving bribes to leave the area.

The stories:

• One eyewitness recounts a large crowd of youth (shabab) that run after a woman in her early twenties when she trips and falls. The men then start groping her and take off her clothes. The woman gets up, runs, and hides inside a restaurant. The men surround the restaurant until someone shouts, "there is another one at ....". The crowds then run to that location to find another woman completely surrounded by hundreds of men trying to feel her and take off her clothes. A taxi driver takes that woman in his car but the men surround the car and shout for the girl to come out. A Security Officer (appears to be non-government) tries to fend the people off by hitting them with his baton. The crowds do not easily disperse until they see two women wearing the overall Saudi/Gulf veil & abaya walking alone. The crowds then completely surround them, before touching them and taking off their veils. They attempt to take their clothes off while 10/11 year old boys get in their abayas.

• A well known actress, Ola Ghanem, was seen surrounded by her bodyguards fending off the crowds but were unable to completely protect the actress.

• A woman in a veil and abaya is harassed by men who take off her abaya before two building Security guys took her into the building and locked the door to protect her.

• A woman in tighter pants and a normal shirt is harassed and men take off her shirt and bra. A security person takes her into a shop fending off people with a stick.

• Much worse assaults are reported by the word of mouth but are not witnessed. One in which a woman was sexually assaulted against a wall after taking off all her clothes.

• Men cheered this before attacking a victim, "yaay, we will f***, we will f***". (yaay is my rough translation for 'heyeh').

• And when they find another victim, "another woman, another woman".

• And when they see women in veil & abaya, "go Saudi, go Saudi". (go is my rough translation for 'beep beep').

• And when surrounding a taxi and calling for a victim to get out of the car, "get out you sl*t, we will show you". The woman was later forced out like they wanted!

• Some bloggers warned women against entering the troubled areas, and most listened. Some women sought protection with the bloggers as they had cameras. The men did not assault these women fearing that they might be journalists.

• Some men were observed to use their belts to ward off the crowds and then take the victim in a taxi and flee.

• Some shop owners sprayed water to disperse the crowds and hailed for the women to come inside.

The possible causes:

The overwhelming response from Egyptian blogosphere is obviously outrage. Though the response is emotional and angry, I was able to identify some possible causes of this incident that were suggested. They might overlap and contradict, but here they are anyway:

• People were under the added pressure of the fast during Ramadan abstaining from 'sin'. On Eid El Fetr, ending Ramadan, the men could finally go back to the routine and all the energy was released at once.

• Marriage in Egypt is not cheap. Poverty has caused men to marry later in life rather than in their 20's.

• The lack of sexual freedom in Egypt. Premarital sex is a taboo; two consenting adults cannot very easily have sex.

• The lack of brothels or sexual outlets, even for money. • Education in Egypt is inadequate and insufficient. In other words, people that are educated were not educated properly in addition to the large number of uneducated people.

• Religious education/awareness is insufficient.

• Lack of law enforcement.

• Inequality between men and women as women are viewed as second rate citizens and have a lower status among men.

• The presence of some freedoms and lack of others. In other words, men can fairly easily find porn, and semi-nude singers are featured in the media yet a man cannot easily find a sexual partner.

Yet, after all this, a cleric claims that Rape Is Women's Fault in a recent post by Freedom For Egyptians.


The Global Persecution of Women